The unfortunate chain of events at the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) is disturbing, and it perfectly illustrates how not to do business. When decisions that will ultimately bring about change have to be made, you get rid of the messenger. This appears to be the case in the recent firing of the executive director of the VIHA.
I cannot begin to rationalize why the board took this action, but it is obvious that the agency had begun to make a good-faith effort to correct years of inefficiencies and bring an end to the mishandling of taxpayer dollars.
At this juncture, it is evident by the recent actions of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) that the irregular management and accounting practices and the lack of proper internal controls at the VIHA are not to be taken lightly. In some places, people are subject to jail and/or fines when these things occur. What is even more tragic is that the people who earnestly rely on the services of the VIHA may have to suffer needlessly if and when funding from HUD is diminished or lost.
I know that receivership is a dirty word to many people in the Virgin Islands, but sometimes we cannot handle problems independently and must swallow our pride and ask for help. We must stop deluding ourselves by saying things like, "We know what we're doing" and "We have this situation under control." Before the residents of the Virgin Islands can seriously embark on the road to financial recovery, they must take the first step: acknowledge that there are serious problems to be dealt with.
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