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HomeNewsArchivesU.S. House Votes to Give Territory a Chief Financial Officer

U.S. House Votes to Give Territory a Chief Financial Officer

July 31, 2007 — The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill creating a chief financial officer post for the territory, Delegate Donna M. Christensen said Tuesday.
The bill must now pass muster with the U.S. Senate. Christensen said her support for the bill should not be construed as a lack of support for the administration of Gov. John deJongh Jr..
"I am very impressed with the current administration's efforts at keeping the Legislature and the public informed on the financial state of our government, as well as their efforts at containing spending and keeping us within the very conservative spending plans and the 2008 budget," she said, according to a news release from her office.
Meanwhile, deJongh sent out a news release noting that the CFO bill is a proposal whose time has passed. The governor has the same objective as the delegate — to achieve governmental financial integrity and efficiency — but he realizes the job requires more than one person, he said.
"The CFO is but one person who will still have the same structure in which to operate," deJongh said.
The governor said he hopes the day will soon come when the delegate will agree that an outside CFO is unnecessary. His position appears to have changed since last fall. In an Oct. 31, 2006, questionnaire that appeared in the V.I. Daily News before deJongh got elected, he responded “yes” to a statement that read, "The Virgin Islands needs a CFO."
When asked about this change of heart, Government House spokesman Jean Greaux said the governor's position has evolved.
"Much like the delegate's should," he said.
The deJongh administration has taken steps to address long-standing fiduciary problems, Greaux said. Those steps include getting audits done on time, addressing the unfunded liability of the Government Employees’ Retirement System and working to have truth in budgeting, Greaux said.
"The governor believes the CFO is no longer needed; it's redundant and a loss in the territory's bid for autonomy," he said.
If changes to the government are necessary, it should come under the upcoming Constitutional Convention, Greaux suggested. Christensen also speculated that the new Constitutional Convention may want to take up the issue.
"The only caveat that exists is that we are about to embark on a Constitutional Convention, which in the past has included such an office in the draft document," she said. "As we move forward from here, I look forward to hearing from the people as to whether they believe that the issue of a chief financial officer would be better addressed by the constitutional delegates whose work is to be completed a year from now."
Christensen said she and deJongh met several times to discuss the issue.
"While no chief executive welcomes such an office intervening even in this narrow way, I applaud the governor's openness on this issue," she said.
The delegate said she continues to hear from people across the territory who want the independent financial analysis that would come with a CFO.
"I maintain that such an office would be an asset to any administration, and would provide an independent financial report which should help to further the collaboration between the Legislature and Government House," Christensen said. "In addition, it would help to restore the confidence of federal-government agencies, as well as that of average Virgin Islanders in the way that we manage our financial affairs."
The new bill differs from the two passed previously in that it does not provide for a financial-management system, because the territory just started using one. Additionally, the bill no longer names the chief judge of the Superior Court as the chairman of the commission proposed to choose the CFO. Instead it provides that the chair be elected by majority vote of the commission after the chief judge calls its initial meeting.
A third change ends the CFO's term at five years or the establishment of a constitution, whichever comes first.
The delegate plans to hold town-hall meetings in the territory on the legislation, she said. Christensen aide Brian Modeste did not return phone calls requesting comment.
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