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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, April 17, 2024


The V.I. government "has lost control" over awarding and managing professional service contracts, the V.I. Bureau of Audit and Control has concluded.
The new audit, done on contracts issued in fiscal years 1996 and 1997 during Gov. Roy L. Schneider's administration, said government officials are ignoring 1992 guidelines for awarding contracts and monitoring the delivery of services.
Marc Biggs, the new commissioner of Property and Procurement, agreed with most of the findings and said he would re-issue the 1992 guidelines to all government departments and offices.
All professional contracts are supposed to be submitted to Property and Procurement, but many aren't. The audit reported that of the 479 service contracts processed in those two years, Property and Procurement could not provide 145.
The total amount of the 479 contracts was more than $108 million.
The audit also found that:
— Individual departments have been issuing their own contracts.
— Duplicate payments have been made when contractors were paid as employees and as part of their contract.
— Questionable stipends have been paid to government employees.
— Departments circumvented the personnel laws by hiring people through professional contracts. One Internal Revenue "collection consultant" on a $50,000 contract accrued annual and sick leave, despite being on contract.
— Retirees were double-dipping by receiving contract fees in addition to their pensions, in violation of V.I. law. One of many examples: A retireee hired by the lieutenant governor in April 1997 was collecting $38,000 a year in retirement benefits plus $50,000 on a professional service contract.
— Contracts were paid even when contracts weren't complete or approved.
— Little follow up has been done to see that contracts were completed.
— Contracts were awarded without bids.
The audit was especially critical of the $200,000 contract awarded to Alicia Barnes the same day she resigned as head of the Energy Office. That contract was for a territorywide plan for solid-waste management. Barnes and Associates have five months left to produce that plan.
Auditors could not obtain any copies of the contract and were told that the arrangement "was generated from 'the hill,' a common reference to Government House," the report said.
Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt said the Barnes contract violated the territory's conflict-of-interest laws.
Editor's note: To see a full copy of the audit report, go to Community/Data.

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