82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024


The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday resumed where it left off last Friday on the Internal Revenue Bureau hearing, only to find the waters even more muddied than previously revealed.
Committee chairwoman Sen. Lorraine Berry had requested that Claudette Farrington, former IRB director, and David Verdi, president of Independent Consulting Services Inc., attend but neither showed.
Farrington’s new boss, Ira Mills, director of the Office of Management and Budget, did show, however, and said he had given Farrington annual leave until Aug. 18 because she had not taken any leave in 18 months. Her whereabouts are unknown.
Verdi's company, meanwhile, has been paid about $700,000 for a computer system that the IRB claims "doesn't work."
Roy McFarlane, Gov. Charles Turnbull’s special assistant for information and technology, had been asked to bring all contracts entered into with the IRB and all government agencies relative to the Y2K issue. McFarlane was there, but empty-handed. Committee members were incredulous and angry.
Berry noted that she had requested the contracts more than two months ago and said McFarlane should have had all contracts in hand and all monies accounted for.
McFarlane said he had to call around to the various agencies to get information and had sent out a memo just that morning.
"This morning?" Berry asked, in obvious wonder.
McFarlane replied, "By today's end we hope to have the contracts."
Sen. Adelbert Bryan suggested the committee give McFarlane one hour to end the "foolishness." Bryan called the situation "ridiculous."
Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd complained that the committee "gets no respect – everything is always late."
Sen. David Jones made a motion to give McFarlane until 1 p.m. to provide the material, which the committee quickly approved. It also approved a motion by Sen. Anne Golden that the Finance Department provide information on all Y2K contracts paid, to be delivered at the same time.
At about 2:30 p.m., a messenger from McFarlane's office appeared with an envelope containing some, but not all, of the contracts. Berry requested the balance be delivered before 5 p.m. The Finance Department delivered some figures by phone to a legislative aide concerning the IRB's Y2K contract checks.
The information was distributed to senators in handwritten form.
As the hearing wore on, it was brought out that final payment had been made to Independent Consulting Services for $95,000 in a check picked up from Finance by McFarlane. Bryan asked McFarlane if he had the authority to pick up the check, and McFarlane said, "No, I did it to assist vendors. Once the checks are cut, we like to get them to the vendors."
IRB employees testified that was not the normal procedure – after Finance cuts the checks, they are supposed to be returned to the bureau for disseminating. However, nobody could explain just how this happened, including McFarlane.
Granville Smith, director of IRB’s computer operations, said the check should never have been paid because the work was not finished, the system didn't work, and he had not signed off on the contract. As the senators asked more questions, it became clear that at the very least, there was a communications breakdown in the bureau.
Smith said the relationship between McFarlane and Farrington had "degraded." Smith said that an individual named Don Johnson was the technical expert and had oversight of the project but that he was off-island until Aug. 3.
Berry read a scathing five-page letter from Verdi dated Jan 24, 2000, in which he denied being responsible for the "deliverables" requested by Smith. He noted that his attorney said what was being requested by IRB wasn't in the contract. He also stated that ICSI is "greatly troubled that we are being held responsible for . . . lack of professionalism by the IRB staff."
Throughout the letter, Verdi claims IRB didn't provide the staff for them to train. He said there should have been an IRB technical staff member working with the ICSI team of programers at all times to avoid delays.
He said ICSI had asked that the IRB technical person be available every day or replaced. He said the IRB’s person missed an average of two days of work a week. It was later brought out, after senators grilled Smith, that the person in question is Robert Parrott. He is off-island receiving medical treatment.
Jones, in apparent exasperation, said, "We are getting answers that don't answer, and explanations that don't explain. We are in disaster recovery mode, and somebody knows the truth and isn't telling."
Berry asked what Farrington's reaction had been to Verdi's letter, and Smith said she had forwarded a complaint to the Justice Department, but he didn't know what the result was.
Ana Ramirez, IRB deputy director from St. Croix, interrupted the proceedings to introduce correspondence from Farrington to Verdi and to the Justice Department. She had written Verdi on Jan. 18, 2000, taking issue with his position on the "deliverables" and asking ICSI to complete the project with no additional cost to the bureau.
She wrote a memo to Attorney General Iver Stridiron on Feb. 25 stating ICSI walked off the job prior to signoff and acceptance by the bureau. She said she subsequently had learned that ICSI had been paid, though the work wasn't completed. She requested legal advice on handling the matter.
Berry said she would recess the meeting until Aug. 22 when Farrington would be back, at which time she said, "I guarantee we will have the answers . . . or some people might not get checks."
Berry said she wants to "remove the maze of confusion" surrounding ICSI. She said to the testifiers, "I've been reading the V.I. Code. It says you are all under oath and required to tell the truth or there will be penalties and the penalties will be enforced."

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