Sunday, June 25, 2017 1:14 pm Last modified: 12:09 pm

Watch Dogs Must be Independent

Recently a Senate panel held a bill in committee that would have provided greater autonomy and a guaranteed budget to the entity charged with stemming the flow of fraud, waste and abuse in the territory. Why?

We have enough money in the territory to fund government services, but between fraud, waste and general malfeasance, we operate in a deficit.

The only entity charged with protecting the citizens of this community from the rampant corruption and ungodly waste is the V.I. Office of the Inspector General.

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It is also the only entity that hovers distinctly above politics.

But despite a hard working staff with the best intentions, the fraud, waste and abuse continue due to the hamstringing of the Inspector General’s Office by underfunding, interference and politics.

So, if you actually wanted to stop or at least slow down the financial and moral degradation of our community, wouldn’t you want to make the agency independent?

Over the years, the audit reports that have flowed out of the VIOIG have made clear in an undeniable way how much we are losing as a community because a few underhanded individuals think there is something okay about robbing their neighbors day in and day out. Too many continue to get away with it.

One striking case was a matter of two accountants at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital who were putting in for an impossible number of overtime hours for more than a year. It cost that institution more than $100,000 in only one year. That was $50,000 per person.

If we pick a multiplier of 10 percent of 9,000 government workers at $50,000 a year – that’s $45 million a year. Now, we don’t want to suggest that 10 percent of government workers are corrupt or not doing their jobs. Much of that projected $45 million is lost in special interest contracts and their subsequent overruns that are controlled by a very few “special” individuals.

Forty-five million dollars could actually be a conservative projection, according to some in the know.

If you want to be one of those in the know, audit reports make good reading.

They can be as shocking as any tabloid story of celebrity arrests or mysterious murders.

But unlike those junk stories intended to distract us from what’s really important in this world, what is revealed in those hard-won audit stories has a measurable effect on our daily life.

So, when the bill to give the V.I. Inspector General’s Office more autonomy comes up again on the Legislature floor, we hope the senators will do the right thing and move on it.

If you feel your life would be better if we could slow down the theft, waste and abuse, and if you feel stressed about the dearth of services provided to taxpayers because “we don’t have the money,” please consider the idea that we do have the money. But it is flowing out of the hands of our trusted servants into the pockets of the self-interested few. If you are sick of it, please call your favorite senator and let them know that you want more power, more money and more support to be given to those we can trust.

If they are unwilling to do so, question that.

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