May 23, 2004 – The Virgin Islands, according to the budget proposed by Gov. Charles Turnbull, expects to get $157 million in federal grants this fiscal year.
In December of 2002, David Cohen, deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, stated those grants would depend in part on the "strength and independence" of its public auditor's office. (See "Grants Tied to Audits")
Cohen said responsiveness in addressing issues raised in audits will be considered in the process of awarding grants.
He appears now to have followed up on his words. On Friday he hired Marina Tinitali to coordinate the efforts of the Department of the Interiors Office of Insular Affairs to promote accountability for federal grants to the territories. Tinitali, who was raised in American Samoa, formerly served as an auditor and grant program specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
So far, Cohen's stated policy has had no effect in the Virgin Islands.
The public auditing agency here is the V.I. Office of Inspector General, headed by Steven van Beverhoudt. His office has oversight responsibility for all three branches of government. Its tasks include conducting audits, monitoring departmental operations and investigating suspected fraud, waste and abuse of government funds.
Van Beverhoudt has stated in interviews that his office is under funded and that one of his greatest frustrations is that government officials ignore the recommendations of audit reports. See Head of Insular Affairs in Territory
"Promoting accountability for federal grants is one of our top priorities, and its significant that weve hired someone to focus exclusively on that effort," said Cohen. "Marina has extensive experience with federal grants programs in the islands, both from the auditing perspective and the program management perspective. Were proud that someone who is from the islands will have the opportunity to serve the islands in such an important way."
Before moving to Washington, D.C. to take her new position, Tinitali served for six years in Honolulu managing FEMA hazard mitigation grants. Prior to that, Tinitali was a FEMA auditor in California for over nine years. From both locations, Tinitali was involved in FEMA activities in Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The press release announcing her hiring stated, "At the Office of Insular Affairs, one of Tinitalis primary responsibilities will be to monitor the performance of each insular area on the accountability factors that will be used to determine eligibility for Office of Insular Affairs grants. These factors include the strength and independence of the public auditors office, timeliness of required audits, resolution of audit findings and compliance with reporting requirements."
"One of Marinas first major tasks will be to assemble the information necessary to assist in determining accountability. Among other duties, she will help with follow-up on the provisions of the OIA Financial Assistance Manual, assist with audit compliance and help monitor the special agreements with all our island partners," said Nikolao Pula, director of the Office of Insular Affairs. "We know that she has the ability to hit the ground running."
The Office of Insular Affairs administers the Federal Governments relationship with the territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa; and administers financial assistance to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association.
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