Legislature Corner: Senator Gittens Expresses Concern Over Loss of WAPA Bond Ratings

Sen. Kenneth L. Gittens (file photo)

The Virgin Islands inspector general has reported to Senator Kenneth L. Gittens that it is proceeding with the special audit of the V.I. Water and Power Authority mandated by Act 8731.

Senators directed and funded the audit, which will cover several issues to include matters related to the controversial VITOL propane contract, the electronic metering system, various leases, the shipment of WAPA equipment to the British Virgin Islands and the loss of more than $2 million dollars to an offshore account.

“These matters were never fully resolved by WAPA, and the Legislature determined that much more information was required in these areas,” Sen. Gittens said. “If we don’t have a better understanding of what transpired and make an effort to hold individuals accountable for their actions, how can we ensure that WAPA does not make these same mistakes in the future?”

Inspector General Delia Thomas said that her office was moving forward, even though slightly behind on the one-year timeline mandated by the Legislature. Act 8731 was vetoed by Gov. Albert A. Bryan Jr. before senators moved to override his veto on June 14, 2023.

“The necessity of this audit is underscored by the recent announcement that Fitch Ratings has withdrawn most of its ratings for WAPA’s bonds as a result of inadequate financial information and an overall lack of transparency at the utility,” Gittens said. “This is a most concerning development, but not surprising given that the Legislature has also had great difficulty getting information from WAPA.”

Fitch Ratings is a credit rating agency that evaluates institutions, corporations, and countries for their creditworthiness offering insights to investors worldwide. Fitch indicated that it would no longer provide ratings for WAPA primarily because of little transparency from the utility and the lack of audited financial statements.

“WAPA’s success is tied to the well-being of every person in this territory,” Gittens said. “We need to be assured that every step is being taken toward true accountability and better management. WAPA’s long time behavior has created a culture of mismanagement at the Authority that must be addressed.”

Office of Senator Kenneth L. Gittens