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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 23, 2024


Dear Source,
Maybe, just maybe, our governor and attorney general should review your article "Head of Insular Affairs is in the territory" before making any big decisions like the veto of peace-officer status to investigators in the Inspector General's Office.
A year ago, David B. Cohen, deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, visited the territory. He pointed out the need for strengthening the local Office of Inspector General and why. His spokesperson reinforced the message with warnings concerning our federal funding. Your article states the warning:
"Cohen's trip is coincidental to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's announcement last week that the V.I. government was facing insolvency, though the V.I.'s fiscal problems are no secret. And if the territory doesn't change its ways where accountability is concerned, it could lose further federal grants and funding.
"Speaking before a meeting of the Island Governments Financial Officers Association last December in Hawaii, Cohen said that the Office of Insular Affairs will look at how well each jurisdiction's public auditor's office is functioning as one of the factors to determine how millions of dollars of discretionary grants will be allocated each year."
He pointed to the shortcomings of the V.I. Office of Inspector General because of the administration as well as the Legislature, as the report stated:
"'We will look at a number of factors,' Cohen said. 'For example, is the public auditor's office properly funded and staffed with qualified people? How strong are the safeguards to its independence? Is it vulnerable to having its funding cut if it offends the government? Is it actively fulfilling its role as a public watchdog?'
"'We consider these factors to be relevant in deciding where our discretionary grants should go,' he said.
"The V.I. Bureau of Audit and Control is subject to all those shortcomings. The office is underfunded, understaffed and completely vulnerable to funding vagaries."
While Mr. Cohen was being diplomatic about the situation, his spokesman was more direct. "We're serious about that," public information officer Keith Parsky said. "We are going to rely more and more on local auditors."
As that process takes place, "Our job becomes communication with the local public auditor," Parsky said.
Legislation could be key in solving this problem. Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt has proposed that his budget be set at a percentage of the entire budget, which is approved by the Legislature.
Federal funds are critical to this territory. Without the required systems and tools in place for the inspector general, we are going in a dire direction unlike any other known in the history of the Virgin Islands. Thank you, Source, for reminding us, if not our leaders, of the consequences of their actions.
Jason Budsan
St. Thomas

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