A law requiring local government employees in Guam to donate frequent flyer miles earned on business trips to a medical program has not been implemented yet, according to Mark-Alexander Pieper of Pacific Daily News.
Attorney General Douglas Moylan wants to know if the Department of Administration has set up a process to comply with the law and what his office can do to assist.
A 1998 law by then-Republican Sen. Edwardo Cruz requires all government of Guam employees and officials to donate frequent flyer miles earned during official business to a central medical program that helps cover emergency off-island medical referrals for residents who can’t afford the trip.
DOA Director Lourdes Perez said there was an attempt to implement the law several years ago, but it failed because of airline frequent flyer program rules and employee monitoring.
“The trouble is the contract to accumulate miles is really with the traveler — the governor’s office worked with the airlines several years ago on the issue, but it really needed dedicated staff and time to track it,” she told Pieper.
Perez said there was confusion, including employees mixing up mileage cards and some who said the mileage earned on the government card came as part of a personal ticket.
Wally Dias, Continental Micronesia staff vice president of sales and marketing, said the attempt was made, but another problem was what to do when the government employee is flying on another carrier that wasn’t part of the program.
“One of the problems is the airlines don’t typically do this anywhere, whether it be for governments or companies,” Dias told the Pacific Daily News. “When these programs first started, there was a lot of difficulty with fraud because when the frequent flyer first came out, it wasn’t considered a long-term plan and had loose controls.”
Perez said the government is looking at possibly purchasing tickets in bulk from airlines so it can negotiate a discount and a way to collect the miles.
Moylan told Pieper that his office does not plan to go after individual government employees.
Dias said the intent of the program is good, but at the same time, there is nothing wrong with allowing the employee to keep the miles.
“Many businesses don’t bother with it because if you’re traveling on business, it’s a lot of work, and it’s looked upon that your flight time is on your own private time,” Dias said. “So I’d say 90 percent of the businesses out there let employees keep their miles because they look at it as a way to help offset the fact that you’re away from your family and traveling on your own time.”