EDA releases list of delinquent loans, but some info still missing

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ST. THOMAS - The Economic Development Authority released an updated list of delinquent loans Tuesday, but the list still lacks pertinent information, such as the purposes of the loans, the terms of the loans or which loans are under payment plans.

Taxpayer money is used to fund the loans.

The list has the name of the loan recipient, often just a business name, the date of the loan and the principle balance of the loan. According to a press release that accompanied the list, it is the list of delinquent accounts in the EDA's Government Development Bank and the Small Business Development Agency as of Dec. 31, 2013.

According to the list, the total balance of 288 delinquent loans stands at $7.6 million.

The list provided does not include what purpose the loan was used for or specific names of who the money went to when only a business name is listed as the recipient.

It also is not a list of all loans issued by the EDA and their status, which is public information and which The Daily News requested. "To assist us in reaching our objectives, we have engaged two independent collection agencies. Our staff is also working with delinquent business owners to modify their loan terms, a standard business practice. Therefore, this list of delinquent accounts does not include businesses or individuals who have appeared before our Lending Division to arrange a payment plan and have demonstrated a good faith effort to repay their debt," EDA Chief Executive Officer Percival Clouden said in the release.

The Daily News initially requested the names of delinquent borrowers in April, following a V.I. Inspector General's audit that found that the EDA's 2010 loan portfolio had a delinquency rate of 84.5 percent and that the Virgin Islands taxpayers were owed about $8.5 million.

The EDA lost millions of taxpayer dollars through its negligent, insecure lending practices and through its improper administration of its nine lending programs, the report stated.

According to the report, which was dated April 2 and released on April 3, the deadbeat borrowers included former senators, business leaders and local contractors.

As in all its audit reports, the Inspector General did not give the borrowers' names.

On April 3, The Daily News asked for the names. That request was followed on May 7 with a formal request citing the V.I. Open Records Act.

Clouden initially told The Daily News that a reporter could have the list of delinquent borrowers the next day. He said the disclosure of the names was something he wanted to make public to help with the collection of the past due amounts.

The next day, the EDA failed to provide the names.

One month later, the EDA sent a partial list of only the delinquent loans the agency deemed collectible. The agency said the list had been scrubbed of borrowers who were dead, on payment plans, filed for bankruptcy or were in litigation.

In May, The Daily News made a second formal request for the complete list of delinquent loans, regardless of whether the EDA felt the loan was collectible.

Clouden released another partial list in September; however, that list did not include senators, business leaders and others that the audit referenced.

The September list did contain 210 names and represented $6.4 million in delinquent loans made through the former Small Business Development Authority and the Government Development Bank since 1982.

In October, The Daily News formally requested a list of all loans given out by the EDA - not just delinquent loans - to include the name of the recipient, the amount of the loan, the borrower's stated purpose for the loan and the loan's current status.

The list provided Tuesday does not fulfill the newspaper's latest request.

Clouden could not be reached for comment by press time.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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