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WAPA Promises to Pursue and Prosecute Perpetrators

Jan. 26, 2005 – Daryl Lynch, chair of the governing board of the V.I. Water and Power Authority, in a letter yesterday to Steven van Beverhoudt, V.I. inspector general, said, "The authority has established and is enforcing a policy of aggressive administrative sanctions and criminal referrals for prosecution of all intentional utility tampering and thefts."
The letter was in response to the recent inspector general's investigation of WAPA, which found that WAPA employees were complicit in the theft of some of $3 million in services from the public utility. (See " WAPA Audit Charges Employees and Residents With Blatant Theft and More").
Lynch wrote the actions resulted from extensive discussions between Alberto Bruno-Vega, executive director, and the board concerning the findings in the investigative report. He added, "While the Governing Board takes exception to the report's overall condemnation of management and employees of WAPA, as it is believed that most of its employees are hard working and dedicated members who perform their work within ethical boundaries, we recognize that there are steps that must be taken to curtail, if not eliminate, line losses which have plagued the Authority for many years."
Several of the proposed steps will be up for approval at the governing board's Feb. 17 meeting on St. John. They include:
1) Enforce disciplinary action against employees who fail to report utility improprieties.
2) Establish and enforce a policy requiring each suspected theft of WAPA to be investigated to conclusion.
3) Establish and enforce a policy that provides for administrative discharge of an employee found stealing from the authority.
4) Establish and enforce policies that prohibit employees from engaging in conflict of interest with the interests of the authority.
5) Establish and enforce a policy of immediate reaction to employee misconduct.
6) Provide for vetting of Revenue Protection Personnel to insure the quality and integrity of the organization with particular emphasis on the management and supervisory positions.
Once these measures are adopted, according to Lynch, all employees and the unions will be notified of the new policies and WAPA's zero tolerance position on employee theft.
Others measures, resulting from the investigation, and mentioned in Lynch's letter include policies to refer to appropriate authorities theft by customers or unlicensed electricians. The letter specifically mentions investigating a condominium project where WAPA employees were, reportedly, illegally paid.
Cassandra Dunn, WAPA spokesperson, said the policies won't just focus on future events but will address questionable activities raised in the investigative report. She said, "We need to take care of some things that happened."
Other plans mentioned in the letter include installing cameras to watch equipment and property; training that addresses the work ethic and encourages honest reporting of employee misconduct; additional support personnel for revenue protection; and complete the resealing program on St. Croix by September.
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