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Thursday, July 7, 2022
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Is the V.I. Government Working?

Dear Source:
The Territorial Government, at present, is the sole provider of public services and the only entity that collects our taxes and other fees. We all know that those services are poor at best. Over many years this has been consistently proven to be the case. The process of collecting monies, (taxes, fees, etc) very often, is cumbersome and lacking oversight. The government wastes many dollars by not having a smooth running system of collecting money to run the government. We are only now beginning the process of computerizing all of our departments, which would allow the government to monitor any department, anytime for any purpose by a simple keystroke. The rest of the world seems so far ahead of our governmental initiatives in terms of record keeping, that it borders on laughable. We are still a cumbersome paper-pushing society. That mentality must change simply because we need to know where our outlays and incomes are at any given time and make it easier to obtain federal grants. The central government also needs much help in the area of inter-departmental electronic communication. This is, after all, the 21st century.
In recent years, the Federal Government has had to become a "watch dog" to ensure that an agency within the Virgin Islands government actually does its job and uses federal monies as they were intended. Federal agencies have mandates that demand careful monitoring and accounting of all funds going in and out. Sadly, there are too many horror stories about government simply not being able to balance books, or even know where monies went. If a centralized information system were already in place, this excessive oversight by the federal government may not have to occur. On the federal level, being the "receiver" (where a federal agency "takes over" an agency of the Virgin Islands) is always a last resort and yet it has become common throughout our territorial government. The federal government is threatening more of the same in several agencies. The federal government assumes, and mandates by law, that record keeping is instituted, and done properly. In fact, there are federal penalties for not keeping good books. We who have lived here for some time know that central government bookkeeping certainly isn't up to snuff. Not having the money to provide these services is no longer a valid excuse. We must find a way.
Why do the fed's have to be watchdogs? The answer is easy–the fed's know that their money is being squandered by inefficient territorial agencies and they need, unfortunately, to have excessive oversight to ensure that the funds are being used properly. Often, after the damage is done. Funds that our elected and appointed people swore to honestly oversee are being improperly used and effectively wasted. Any good businessman knows that budgets and tracking of incomes and outlays are the keys to fiscal survival and yet our government continues to meet the lowest standards of fiscal management. Perhaps there is too much for them to handle. Maybe, running a huge enterprise like the Virgin Islands is beyond the capabilities of our present form of government.
It seems this is so.
Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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