May 27, 2005 – Residents calling for St. Croix to break away from St. Thomas and St. John were dealt a setback Friday when the U.S. Inspector General declined to audit the territory's finances, officials said.
The St. Croix Self-government Committee requested the audit hoping to prove the V.I. government spends more money improving St. Thomas and St. John, and that St. Croix is relatively under funded, said Rena Brodhurst, committee president and publisher of The Avis newspaper of St. Croix. (See "St. Croix Committee Seeks Federal Audit of V.I. Finances").
Roy Kime, a spokesman for the U.S. Inspector General's office in Washington, said it would be more appropriate for the Virgin Islands Inspector General to conduct the audit.
If Gov. Charles W. Turnbull requested the audit, it would more likely be granted, he said. Turnbull, however, has publicly condemned the idea of separating the islands.
Brodhurst said she is considering asking the local Inspector General to conduct the audit.
"We're disappointed, however, we're not discouraged. We hope at a later date the Interior Department will be interested to find out how federal funds are spent in the territory," she said.
Brodhurst and the self-government committee sent a letter requesting the audit to the U.S. Department of the Interior in April, saying St. Croix probably generates more revenue than the other two primary islands – through Hovensa and the Cruzan Rum distillery – but sees less government spending.
The complaint is widespread in St. Croix, where more than 7,000 of the island's 27,000 registered voters have signed a petition asking Congress to make the island its own U.S. territory. The territory's poor financial record keeping, however, has made it impossible to confirm the belief, she said.
Brodhurst said she got the idea for the audit from U.S. House Resources Committee staffers, who advised her organization to seek the audit during a February meeting in Washington.
At least three members of the Virgin Islands legislature have long complained that records of government debt, revenue and expenditures are hard to come by. The territory failed to pass a budget in 2004 and 2003, giving Turnbull more discretion on public spending.
Some senators said a federal audit would be welcome, though they oppose dividing the territory.
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