Capital Improvement Fund Records Still Not Available

Despite months of continuing requests from community members, the Senator-at-Large and the media, the V.I. Government still has not provided the accounting records of the St. John Capital Improvement Fund, which was set up to pay for infrastructure improvements on the island.

St. John Tradewinds has been requesting the records from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the past four months.

Acting director Deborah Gottlieb, who took over for OMB Director Ira Mills during his December 2005 vacation, at the time said the information had been compiled.

Mills, however, returned to his post before Gottlieb was able to send the information.

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Records Sitting on Desk
“The information was ready last week,” Gottlieb said in mid-January. “It has been sitting on the director’s desk. He needs to look it over and sign off on the information.”

Mills never signed off on the information and, on Tuesday, Jan. 31, the director’s secretary said she had no knowledge of any St. John Capital Improvement Fund records.

The information, however, has already been compiled, according to another OMB official.

“The information is completely there, but my boss just needs to review it,” said OMB budget analyst Mita Gaikwad. “I did all of the work and put all of the information together. There is nothing more that I can do.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 1, Mills’ secretary called and said the St. John Capital Improvement Fund records would be mailed to Tradewinds. As of press time, the information had not arrived.

Over-Appropriated Fund
In mid-September, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull provided the balance records of the St. John Capital Improve-ment Fund from fiscal year 2001 through September 2005.

The accounting records show that while about $1.5 million flow in annually, approximately $13.5 million has been spent over the past four years.

The beginning balance was $10.2 million, and four years later, the ending balance was $2.7 million, according to the records. There was no information, however, on what projects the funds were spent on.

Turnbull said she did not have that information, and the only way to get it was from OMB.

St. John Tradewinds is not the only entity trying to get information about the St. John Capital Improvement Fund.

Despite repeated attempts over the past three years, the St. John Community Foundation has not been able to obtain the information either.

“We have tried to get that information for years,” said Carole DeSenne, the St. John Community Foundation’s executive director. “We even got Governor Turnbull to commit to get us that information back in 2004, and we have never seen it.

“We’ve been requesting for years, and we haven’t be able to get anywhere,” DeSenne said.

Getting Nowhere
Even Senator at Large Craig Barshinger has not been able to obtain the accounting records of the St. John Capital Improve-ment Fund.

Barshinger has been requesting the income, revenue and expenditures for projects from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund for the past six months, to no avail.

“I originally requested the information in July and sometimes called two and three times a week,” he said. “It is a very simple request, but the post auditor and OMB have not yet supplied it.”

Hill New Finance Chair
Since the V.I. Senate reorganization put the Democratic camp in the majority, Senator Louis Hill has taken over as chairman of the Finance Committee.

Barshinger said he is hopeful he will now be able to obtain the St. John Capital Improvement records with Hill’s assistance. “Louis Hill is now fiscally responsible to the senate,” Barshinger said. “I have already spoken to him about this issue and look forward to finally receiving the information.”

Sen. Hill has scheduled a meeting with OMB’s Mills and said he intends to raise the St. John Capital Improvement Fund issue and work to make the accounting information available, according to Barshinger.