10 Jun 2014

Probe finds US official from Guam unprofessional

4:24 pm on 10 June 2014

A report into Guam native and former United States Assistant Secretary for the Office of Insular Affairs, Tony Babauta, has found he directed funds to friends and acted unprofessionally while in office.

Mr Babauta resigned in January last year amid allegations he directed federal awards to friends, sexually harassed employees, misused equipment and took personal trips under the guise of official business.

The Office of the Inspector General in the US says its investigations show Mr Babauta directed the award of two grants, totalling over 450,000 US dollars, to the University of Guam to support the Micronesian Centre for a Sustainable Future.

Both grants went to Mr Babauta's former employer and were made against the advice of his staff and grant specialists.

The probe found the University of Guam subsequently hired Mr Babauta's friend.

It says the university allowed the friend to spend more than 32,000 US dollars in grant funds on unallowable expenses, many of personal benefit.

The report also supported allegations Mr Babauta made inappropriate comments to staff and conducted himself unprofessionally at times.

But the report says it did not find any proof that Mr Babauta used government travel for personal gain, though it found certain trips in which he "appeared to benefit personally".

In a statement to Guam media, Mr Babauta has defended his actions.

He acknowledges some "appearances of conflicts", but says his personal relationships with island leaders had no bearing on his decisions.

Mr Babauta says he will continue working towards improving the islands and looks forward to opportunities to return to public service.