Why Is WAPA Rate Hike Even Being Considered?

A protester signals his dissatisfaction with WAPA during a PSC meeting in August. (Source file photo by Bethaney Lee)
A protester signals his dissatisfaction with WAPA during a Public Services Commission meeting in August. (Source file photo by Bethaney Lee)

The USVI is a sanctuary for the corrupt. A place where corruption is enabled and never vanquished. Its residents feel like the government, legislature and WAPA all work hand in hand, and no one is ever held accountable.

Many witnessed or read of what, I believe, is just a fraction of the blatant financial mismanagement and corruption of WAPA on October 1st in the Senate hearing. Why is the Virgin Islands Public Services Commission still even considering this rate hike request after this? Documents have been released that reveal grants and loans that WAPA has received. Yet, WAPA claims they need more?

Is it so they can continue, what I believe, should be called money laundering by paying thousands of dollars in rent for unoccupied spaces? Or [is it] so they can wire more money to offshore accounts and then claim it was an innocent error?

Better yet, could it be that the government rerouted their funds to other causes, such as what happened with the Medicaid funds the VI recently received? Have some of WAPA’s funds lined Governor Bryan and his friends’ pockets? Why was he so afraid of the “baseless criticism” that would be discussed during the Senate hearing?

I’ve seen the WAPA Transition Cluster Report that was released by the Bryan-Roach team. I’ve also seen some pages of WAPA’s financial statement. How can anyone have confidence that those numbers are factual? It is known that Witt O’ Brien works with the accounting firm, once known as BDO, to audit WAPA’s use of grants received by FEMA. Should we trust their findings when the firm, once known as BDO, is managed by people who were on Governor Bryan’s campaign team? It seems eerily similar to former PR Governor Rosello’s relationship with BDO of Puerto Rico.

Whether it is WAPA or the governor’s fault for the mismanagement, residents shouldn’t have to pay for it. I’m saddened that the decision to raise the rates has been dragged on for so long by the PSC. The request should’ve been met with an immediate no.

I was told by a former senator of the USVI that the rates will be approved as they see that as the only way to save WAPA. I hope that he is wrong, and that the PSC will make the right decision. However, how can I trust PSC when they have granted rate hikes before? A better question is who will stay on the islands to pay the new rates if they increase it? Perhaps, what happened in Puerto Rico with PREPA and the government should happen here. It seems that will be the only way to hold the corrupt accountable.

Jezellia Sujanan, St. Thomas