Once again the Legislature is considering giving the V.I. Inspector General’s office much greater autonomy.
This is a good thing, and honorable.
A concern expressed during a recent Senate hearing was how to fund the office given the current government money woes. In fact, the cost of the salary of another auditor was removed from the budget during the most recent round of budget hearings.
The executive branch, or anyone having monetary control over the IG, is a recipe for manipulation of who or what gets exposed. Anyone can easily stymy and has stymied the investigations by financial strangulation.
What needs to happen is funding for the IG by statute, as has been discussed. So, the IG’s office gets a percentage – say a half or one percent of the overall budget – and no one can touch it.
Those of us who have been privileged to read scores of audits over the years can attest that a robust, independent IG’s office will ultimately pay for itself – and much more – by sealing the holes where the money leaks out.
We maintain there is plenty of money coming into the Virgin Islands, but it is washed away by the rampant malfeasance, fraud, waste and outright thievery that is tacitly accepted, at best, and at worst, secretly applauded or supported.
One such audit several years ago exposed two finance professionals who had paid themselves in excess of $100,000 in overtime in less than a year. The details were amusing. They often worked enough hours in a given week as to completely eliminate the possibility of sleep or even eating.
These audits are always well-written and really do make an entertaining read.
But the results of the findings, when you do the math – as the IG does so well – are devastating to our community.
If we imagined that there were 100 such people, making away with an average $100,000 a year, that’s $10 million a year.
The truth is, between the stealing and the inefficiencies, much more than that is likely seeping steadily from our coffers, eroding our infrastructure and worse, our trust in our public servants. The loss of confidence is as damaging as the monetary losses and in the end leads to an even more corrosive apathy.
We hope that the Legislature will act swiftly and with full measures to support a financially and ethically independent Office of the Inspector General. Fix the leaks now and the future will be full for us all.