Gov.: Request for audit of Finance Authority is 'outrageous'
Published: August 22, 2013
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Following the V.I. Public Finance Authority's regular monthly meeting Wednesday, Gov. John deJongh Jr. issued a public statement calling the V.I. Legislature's call for an audit of the PFA outrageous.
DeJongh and PFA Executive Director Angel Dawson Jr. questioned why members of the Senate wanted an audit, which the senators formally requested after a budget hearing in June.
Since the Senate's request, V.I. Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt, who stated in July that local and federal authorities would work together to conduct the audit, has scheduled an audit for the first six months of 2014.
"The generalization of their statements are irresponsible and without foundation, especially given the absence of any specific indication of what they are trying to determine," deJongh said in the prepared statement, which singled out Senators Terrence Nelson and Clifford Graham.
Nelson was the first to suggest the audit, and the Finance Committee backed his recommendation during a June budget hearing. Graham is the chairman of the Finance Committee, which sent a letter formally requesting the audit.
"The statements from Nelson and Graham include fictional claims that money secured by the PFA has disappeared in the hands of private entities and that all funds managed by the authority have not been properly accounted for," deJongh's statement said.
The governor also noted that Public Finance Authority documents are available online and that any bond issuance by the PFA must get legislative approval.
"I'm just befuddled," Dawson said Wednesday after the Public Finance Authority's meeting, during which there was little discussion of the comments made by senators during the last two weeks and Tuesday's special session.
Dawson said he and the governor, who is also the chairman of the Public Finance Authority, feel the audit is unnecessary because the authority is subject to annual audits and always has erred on the side of transparency, posting many of its documents online and sharing whatever documents are requested by the public or other government officials.
"Anybody can say anything. That's the beauty of the First Amendment, but that doesn't mean it's true," Dawson said. "It's groundless."
However, Nelson argued that the reason the Public Finance Authority is paying more than $13.6 million to the Internal Revenue Service, a payment approved by the Senate at Tuesday's special session and formally approved by the Public Finance Authority on Wednesday, is because of financial mismanagement. An audit likely could have prevented such a cost, according to Nelson.
"Keep in mind, the governor and his cabinet members make up the Public Finance Authority," Nelson said Wednesday in response to the governor's statement.
Nelson suggested that the best option in the future may be to dissolve the Public Finance Authority and create an internal government division that would take on the responsibilities of the Public Finance Authority.
"If nothing else, the audit will stop all the speculation of corruption and mismanagement, especially at a time when there is a lack of public trust," Nelson said in response to the governor's Wednesday statement. "Why not?"
Nelson's sentiment was echoed Wednesday by Graham, who said that the Public Finance Authority had been elusive about handing over documents for years and, until now, has not truly been held accountable.
"I had no choice but to send that letter, but this has been happening for years," Graham said. This year alone, the Public Finance Authority has failed to meet requests from Graham for numerous documents, he said.
He cited letters his office had sent to the Public Finance Authority earlier this year requesting a number of documents; only some were ever handed over, he said.
The documents that Graham said he did receive include the Public Finance Authority's audited financial statements and statements for bonds issued on behalf of the territory. The documents Graham said he did not receive include documents regarding employee salaries and contracts entered into by the Public Finance Authority.
However, Dawson said Wednesday that the Public Finance Authority had met requests from Senators and that the Public Finance Authority welcomes any further questions or queries, though he was not sure why they would come up.
"What do they mean we are not providing information?" Dawson asked. "I have no idea what they are talking about."
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.