Bill heard for Guam Ethics Commission independence

On Wednesdaymorning, lawmakers held a public hearing for Bill 85, which would reaffirm the Guam Ethics Commission as an independent body able to receive, hear and render opinions on allegations of ethics violations in the Government of Guam.  

It also outlines the duties of the commission’s executive director relative to ensuring the conduct of investigations, hearings, supervising and hiring of commission staff.

Bill 85, introduced by Sen. Joe S. San Agustin. was well-received by Sens. Chris M. Duenas, Sabina Perez, and Joanne Brown, but some concerns matters arose during the hearing. 

The Ethics Commission was established in 1996 by Public Law 23-105, but wasn’t an active GovGuam entity until a 2019 executive order was issued by Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio to reactivate it.

Other bills related to bringing the commission online are also awaiting hearing, including one to mandate ethics training for all government employees and another to establish an anonymous reporting channel for ethics violations.

Jesse John Quenga, executive director of the Guam Ethics Commission, provides testimony during a hearing of Bill 85 April 19.

Budgetary autonomy

The recently appointed executive director of the Ethics Commission, Jesse John Quenga, appeared before legislators in support of the bill. He proposed an amendment to increase the budgetary autonomy of the committee by outlining the authority to:

  • hire staff as deemed necessary, by submitting an annual budget request to the Legislature;
  • review and approve a fiscal year budget necessary to meet all conditions and requirements set forth by public law;
  • provide a detailed breakdown of necessary funding to the Legislature;
  • exempt the commission from the Bureau of Budget Management Research/Office of the Governor of Guam budgetary allotment control; and
  • draw against its respective appropriations from the Legislature, without impediment from the Director of Administration.

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