March 24, 2002 – A career crunching numbers never entered young Steven van Beverhoudt's mind back when he was running around his father's gas station in Market Square on St. Thomas, learning all he could about automobile engines.
"We were always down there," the V.I. Inspector General says, referring to himself and his brother, U.S. Inspector General Arnold van Beverhoudt.
"My father was known as 'Chief' to all the old-timers then, the taxi drivers in the early '50s and '60s," he says. "I don't know how I switched from mechanics to accounting. I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be where I am now."
Where he is now is where he has been through three administrations. He was appointed to the post in 1989 by Gov. Alexander Farrelly and reappointed in 1995 by Gov. Roy L. Schneider. His renomination by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull will be coming up before the Senate Rules Committee.
Van Beverhoudt maintains a quiet profile most of the time — until his office releases an audit report critical of a local government office or announces the arrest of a government employee on fraud charges.
In March, his office announced the arrest of a Jamila Russell, a Licensing and Consumer Affairs official and well-known Democratic Party member on St. Croix. She is now free on $25,000 bail after being arrested for allegedly issuing five illegal professional licenses. (See "DLCA official charged with licensing fraud".)
Because he was born and reared on St. Thomas, van Beverhoudt is especially circumspect. "I put my personal feelings aside," he says. "That comes with the job. If you take a position like this, you have to do the best possible job you can."
He admits that it is not always easy. "Sometimes I'm disappointed to see things happening with people I know and respect," he says. "It's so much harder because everyone knows everyone and/or is related." He says he and his staff "have to be objective. If I know the person, or one of my staff does, I have to assign the case to someone else."
In 2000, van Beverhoudt took a step toward making the investigation process less cumbersome and more effective. The White Collar Crime Unit had been a part of the Justice Department for many years. "There was no coordination between the offices," he says, "so the previous director and I got together and came up with the idea of teaming up, and we got the A.G. [Attorney General Iver Stridiron] to buy in on it." Together the two offices now run the Government Fraud and Corruption Task Force which, van Beverhoudt says has been much more effective.
The I.G.'s office has a staff of 11, including three criminal investigators and one prosecuting attorney. But it is budgeted for 19, and van Beverhoudt is looking for new hires — carefully. "Finding the right people is a long, drawn-out process," one that presents unique challenges, he says.
The investigators must have a degree in criminal investigation, he says, "and they have to be someone who isn't shy, who can talk to people. Sometimes this work is confrontational."
Then, "you have to find someone who can understand numbers," he continues, noting that the two qualities don't necessarily go hand in hand. "The investigator will usually work hand in hand with an auditor to come up with the right numbers, 'cause that's where it all starts, wrong numbers," he says.
VanBeverhoudt has to pause for a minute to think of the really rewarding aspects of his career. "I have people greeting me on the street all the time and complimenting us on the work we are doing," he says. "People call the fraud hot line with tips. We got five or six calls within two days after the licensing arrest. There are other licensing issues, and by going public, people are bringing them forward."
Sifting through all the tips can be exhausting. "We get a lot of personal vendettas, people making allegations with no way to back them up, but public awareness is what we are after," he says. With a realistic nod, he continues, "It's for preventive measures, too. If they know somebody is checking, people will think twice before they do something."
When government offices follow the suggestions made in the audits, "that can be very rewarding," the I.G. says. On the other hand, "One of the most frustrating things is when nobody pays any attention to the audits and the suggestions we have made. We suggest cost-saving measures, and then we go back and see the exact, same things being done."
Both van Beverhoudt brothers are University of the Virgin Islands graduates. Steven received his B.A. in accounting in 1979 and then worked for seven years as an Internal Revenue Bureau agent. In 1984, he took an entry-level job in the Inspector General's Office; then he became supervising auditor, and in 1989 he became the I.G.
His brother's career has more or less paralleled his. "Arnold graduated in 1967 and went to the U.S. Comptroller's Office, he says. "He's been with the federal government for close to 27 years." Arnold van Beverhoudt, too, began as an entry-level auditor; he now is in charge of the Caribbean region.
"It helps having him in that position," Steven van Beverhoudt said of his sibling. We can share notes together and consult on different issues, and we know what the other is working on, so there's no duplication of effort."
The I.G. keeps a low profile in his personal life, as well. He has two sone — Steve Jr., 19, a senior at Ivanna Eudora Kean; and Mark, 11, a sixth grader at Sts. Peter and Paul. His wife, Myrna, is the faculty foreign language chair at Eudora Kean.
"Nothing really jumps out at me," he says. "I'm what you call a family man. We're very close; we work on computers together, spend a lot of time together."
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