June 8, 2005 – Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt's request for an increase in funding equal to ½ percent of the government's executive budget ended in confusion Thursday, as Senators responded to testimony, which conveyed no actual immediate need for additional money. "The proposal included in this bill to statutorily set the annual funding level for the V.I. Inspector General's Office addresses one of the remaining impairments to independence; however, there are other areas that need to be addressed so that the office can effectively carry out its responsibilities in an independent and consistent manner," stated van Beverhoudt.
Van Beverhoudt advocated the creation of a strong and independent local audit unit, its ties severed from the executive branch, and able to make its own decisions. "As it is right now, I have only five auditors and two investigators and we're responsible for all the branches of government," said van Beverhoudt. "So, I need a certain level of independence in order to hire the talent needed to fulfill our obligations. We can't hire above a certain stepwe've even had to justify why we wanted to hire specific individuals. That takes almost a month and we don't have that time to waste."
Van Beverhoudt compared the V.I. office to that of other U.S. territories, using Guam to illustrate the need for separation"with a population of 70 to 80 thousand people, their office is staffed with 35 individuals and the Public Auditor has complete authority."
Ira Mills, Management and Budget director, while not in favor of a separate audit unit, corroborated van Beverhoudt's testimony by stating that the legislation had to address problems within the system. Mills said that fiscal challenges met by the OMB in 1999 led to the practice of audits, which were at the "heart of accountability for the government. If you don't get caught up with those audits, you don't get any money."
Van Beverhoudt additionally expressed the need to construct offices in St. Croix but since "the building might take a few years," he concluded that there is no need for ½ percent of the executive budget in FY 2006. In response, Sen. Louis Hill called for the creation of a proposal which addresses all issues simultaneously. Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville asked the inspector to submit a list of demands before the next hearing. The Finance Committee subsequently decided to keep the matter at this level for the next 30 days.
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