Feb. 24, 2003 – Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, in his capacity as Senate Finance Committee chair, is raising questions about the management of money flowing through the V.I. Lottery Office — and having trouble getting answers.
On Monday, citing a little-used provision in the V.I. Code allowing the Finance Committee to audit any government agency, he said he had been making some progress in finding out more about Lottery financial operations when an edict from Government House brought the process to an abrupt halt.
Donastorg went to the V.I. Lottery offices on St. Thomas on Monday, accompanied by reporters and a member of the Senate Post Audit Division. The post audit assistant, who had initiated the inspection of agency records, was told she would not be allowed to enter the building by order of Government House and Attorney General Iver Stridiron.
Neither Stridiron nor Government House spokesman James O'Bryan Jr. could be reached for comment Monday evening. Donastorg said he, too, had not heard from the attorney general, or from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's legal counsel, Paul Gimenez.
At the Lottery office, an assistant to Executive Director Austin Andrews invited Donastorg to come in and speak with Andrews, on the condition that he come by himself. Donastorg declined.
Donastorg's authority as Finance Committee chair includes oversight for post audit. He cited V.I. Code Chapter 10, Title 2, Section 202, in a letter sent to Lottery officials earlier this month advising them that a post audit staffer would be dropping by to request access to specific documents — and to take photographs of the office.
Although the customary Post Audit Division duties are directed toward financial analysis of budgets and leases, the division also has the authority to audit the financial affairs and transactions of every government agency, including the Legislature itself. But it's a duty that has largely fallen by the wayside. The division hasn't conducted an audit since 1984, Donastorg said.
Donastorg told the reporters present that the last time auditors hired by the V.I. government came to inspect the government's books, in Fiscal Year 2001, they reviewed every agency except the V.I. Lottery.
The V.I. Inspector General's Office audited the Lottery a few years ago, he said, but not since the introduction of new games of chance into the territory, including Caribbean Lottery and Powerball.
"When we questioned the revenues, to see if the government is getting its fair share from Caribbean Lottery, that's when everything went haywire," Donastorg said.
Assistant Post Auditor Eboni Durant was expecting the delivery of documents that had been requested in Donastorg's Feb. 5 letter to Andrews. Delivery was promised on Friday, the senator said, but the documents never came through.
Among the requested documents are addendums to the agreement between the V.I. Lottery and Caribbean Lottery Inc., a copy of the agreement with Powerball, and financial statements from December 2001.
Donastorg said he also is seeking, among other documents:
– Reports of all payouts incurred as a result of the contract between V.I. Lottery and Caribbean Lottery.
– Documents pertaining to revenues generated to the government through Powerball.
– A list of all individuals paid through the distribution of net profits.
– A report of revenues and receipts for the V.I. Lottery.
In a separate letter dated Feb. 5, Donastorg asked Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull to provide Durant with copies of all V.I. Lottery "checks and invoices" from Fiscal Year 2002 and through the first quarter of FY 2003. The Finance commissioner wrote back in a letter dated Feb. 18 saying "your request cannot be honored since the V.I. Lottery independently administers its own affairs. Therefore your request should be forwarded to that entity."
Donastorg said he is giving Andrews and Turnbull administration officials a week to justify their actions. If he does not hear from them in seven days, he said, he will consult with his Senate colleagues about the Finance Committee subpoenaing the requested documents.
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