Some Guam senators, staff rack up $60K in travel in 9 months

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — In nine months, from February to October 2019, more than $66,000 was spent on travel by senators and staff of the Legislature, according to documents on the Legislature's website.

One senator wants to ensure that future travel funded by taxpayers is justified.

Sen. James Moylan introduced Resolution 305-35 on Wednesday to require members and staff of the Legislature who use funds from the Guam Legislature’s budget to file a Travel Justification Report.

Of the total $66,781 noted in the Legislature's travel summary, Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee accrued $16,767 in travel costs. Sen. Telo Taitague had $9,578 in travel costs. Sen. Amanda Shelton's travel for those nine months totaled $9,115, according to the travel summary filed on the legislative website. Other senators and legislative staffers also traveled.

While all who traveled submitted the required documents, Moylan's resolution would require additional information that shows how the island benefits from the travel.

Senators don't always travel using the Legislature's appropriations or local funds.

The current policy is the same as the government of Guam’s general policy, which only requires the submission of travel documents and receipts for expenses.

Moylan said no justification of how the trip benefits the island is currently required of those taking trips paid for out of the Legislature’s budget, or if alternative technological means to satisfy the intent of the physical trip were considered.

Under the resolution, members and staff of the Legislature must file a report stating: why they were required to travel at the government’s expense; the benefit of the travel; justification if the trip could have been avoided by use of technological means; a list of all expenses incurred on the trip; and a detailed list of all official activities engaged in during the trip.

Travelers would have five days to file the report, which would be made accessible to the public. If the report is not submitted, the individual would not be compensated for the days they were on the trip.

Justification for past trips would be required as the measure would make the effective date of the policy retroactive to Jan. 7, 2019, when the 35th Guam Legislature was sworn in.

“I am not opposed to official travel, as I believe it is much needed at times, especially if we are seeking monetary benefits for our island. But my belief is that if we are using taxpayer dollars on these travels, then we need to provide the community some justification in how and why we were spending these thousands of dollars,” Moylan stated in a press release.

Moylan said he has not taken a single trip on the government’s dime during his time as a senator. He said when he worked in the private sector and traveled for business, detailed reports, receipts and justification of the benefit of the travel were required.

“When we are spending taxpayer dollars, I don’t see why we can’t do the same in the Guam Legislature. Transparency is critical, and the people have the right to know what benefits to expect when their elected representatives travel on the public dime,” Moylan added.

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