Aug. 16, 2005 — After making the same demands for the past 15 years, Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt had nothing new to say in defense of a $1.2 million budget request at Finance Committee hearings on Tuesdayin fact, van Beverhoudt looked less than eager to talk to senators after waiting four hours to be called up for testimony.
"Today we are maintaining the same status quo as last year and the years before," van Beverhoudt said. "We have vacancies that we cannot fill, and we have projects that we do not have the resources to undertake and although we're doing the best we can, we will continue to be behind the proverbial eight ball if steps are not taken to resolve key issues affecting our operations."
Van Beverhoudt added that senators have the power to resolve such areas of concern by providing a fixed budget for the office, as well as giving the I.G. more independence from the executive branch.
"In June of this year, Sen. Terrence 'Positive' Nelson proposed a bill to establish the budget for the V.I. Inspector General's Office as a percentage of the executive budget while I complimented Sen. Nelson for the proposal, I also recommended that the bill be amended to address all the issues affecting our operations," van Beverhoudt said.
Including a long list of recommendations in his proposal, van Beverhoudt further outlined all possible options the government could undertake to ensure this separation without taking too much power away from the Senate. Besides establishing a fixed budget, van Beverhoudt suggested:
— the V.I. Inspector General be given full authority in the hiring of personnel;
— the office be placed under the umbrella of the Legislature for administrative purposes only (i.e. paying bills, etc.);
— officials within the office be appointed and voted on by the governor, Senate president, and head judge of the V.I. Superior Court to ensure a fair selection of employees.
In support of these recommendations, van Beverhoudt compared the structure of the IGs office to those established in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, both U.S. governances similar to the territory. "Guam has a separate office for the I.G. called the Office of the Public Auditor, with the authority to hire qualified individuals for the office. I dont have that kind of power I can only hire someone on the third step of the payroll systemsomeone with only three years experience for a base salary of $35,000–$40,000."
Van Beverhoudt added that such a salary range inevitably means that employees will not be qualified enough for the positions they are filling. "Also, it seems that I cant find someone willing to work for such low amount of money even someone right out of college this is a problem because I have five vacancies to fill on St. Thomas that are essential for us to continue with our job."
Without employees for these positions, van Beverhoudt anticipated that audits would continue to move at the current pacewith the IGs office not being able to consider requests until approximately six months after they have been made. "There are some projects that we have to decline completely Sen. Barshinger, for example, has asked us to undertake an audit for the 24-26 legislatures. Theres no way I have the resources to do that right now."
Van Beverhoudt also said that much-needed audits on the V.I. Carnival Committee, as well as the Horseracing and Anti-Litter commissions have also been delayed. "We get to things when we can if theres something critical we need to do, well stop what were doing and finish that. But I guarantee that it takes about six months before we can start many of the projects were requested to do."
"These recommended changes are not about me I currently have a little over three years remaining in my current and, quite possibly, my last term as the V.I Inspector General. The changes are about all of us, and what is best for the people of the Virgin Islands," van Beverhoudt added.
The Finance Committee also received testimony from Port Authority representative Darlan Brin. While the organization does not receive an appropriation from the general fund, they did present a $53.5 million budget overview for senators anxious to know about the status of many capital projects within the territory.
Senators present at Tuesday's hearing were Norman Jn Baptiste, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Neville James, Nelson, and Figueroa-Serville.
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