The Interior Department plans to close its Inspector General’s Office in the Virgin Islands within the year, but will continue to conduct audits in the territory through field work.
Stephen Hardgrove, chief of staff for Interior’s IG Office in Washington, D.C., confirmed reports of the closing Tuesday.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Hardgrove said. “Unfortunately we’re faced with budget cuts.” He said Interior determined it could save money by closing its V.I. office, located in the Ron DeLugo Federal Building on St. Thomas.
“We’re not disappearing,” Hardgrove said. “We will continue to do audits and evaluations (of government operations and agencies) in the Virgin Islands,” but he acknowledged the work will be conducted from the mainland. Staff may visit the territory as needed.
While the move was not officially announced as of late Tuesday, Hardgrove said the five-person staff in the St. Thomas office had been notified. He said he is hopeful some or all will transfer to other Inspector General offices on the mainland.
Hardgrove could not immediately say how long the office has operated in the territory, but it has been at least since the 1980s.
The federal agency averages about four audits a year, he said, issuing some reports on its own and often working with the territorial Inspector General’s Office. The two offices frequently issue joint audits, he said.
“You do have a very effective Virgin Islands Inspector General,” Hardgrove said. “That helped play into the decision” to close the federal office. He said he expects the partnership to continue.
Hardgrove expressed pride in the local office, noting especially audits on the Water and Power Authority, the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and police evidence rooms.
“I think we’ve done some valuable work there,” he said.
The office will close “no later than October of 2013,” he said.