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Monday, July 4, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesY2K FUNDS STILL BEING DRAWN DOWN, PANEL TOLD

Y2K FUNDS STILL BEING DRAWN DOWN, PANEL TOLD

Senators got some answers on the status of the territory's Y2K compliance funding at Tuesday's Finance Committee meeting — although some of those answers were incomplete.
Testifying before the committee were Ira Mills, Office of Management and Budget director; Bernice Turnbull, Finance commissioner; and Roy McFarlane, special assistant to the governor for information technology.
The status of the Indirect Cost Fund was also on the agenda.
McFarlane told the senators he was there "to assure" them that Y2K funds had been used for rebuilding and for "the technological infrastructure of the government." He said $28.1 million was provided through two Y2K loans — one from Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and IBM Corp. and the other from the Roosevelt & Cross financial institution.
Under questioning from committee chair Lorraine Berry, McFarlane gave a breakdown of how a $16.1 million federal Y2K grant was expended. He said the money was reimbursement for funds previously spent on Y2K projects, not an additional sum to be spent.
To date, McFarlane said, $9.8 million has been drawn down from the federal grant allotment to "critical" agencies. He said the money has gone to the Roy L. Schneider and Juan F. Luis Hospitals; the Health, Finance and Justice Departments; the Internal Revenue Bureau; and Police 911 services. According to Turnbull, $7.4 million of the $9.8 million has been received from the federal government, with the remaining $2.4 million expected.
Berry asked how much had been drawn down from the $31.1 million the Legislature authorized for Y2K compliance. McFarlane said $11.7 million has been drawn from the Banco Popular/IBM fund, and $6.9 million from Roosevelt & Cross. Berry reminded the administration representatives that while the allocation was for $31.1 million, if they spend more than $21.1 million, they are mandated to go back to the Legislature to request an additional sum.
Sen. David Jones asked how much has been paid out of these funds. Turnbull said, "$20.3 million in actual expenditures."
Sen. George Goodwin asked if all agencies are Y2K compliant now. McFarlane replied that both hospitals and the Health Department are 95 percent compliant. Goodwin, appearing vexed, reminded the testifiers that the Senate had "been rushed" last year to get the appropriations. He demanded to know why the delay in expending the funds.
Turnbull said the Finance Department "didn't know the needs at the time" and that the "software had been slow in coming."
Sens. Violet Anne Golden and Gregory Bennerson asked whether the computers purchased came from local vendors or off-island. Turnbull said five contractors were local and four were not.
Under questioning by Sens. Roosevelt David and Berry about the Indirect Cost Fund, Turnbull said she was still awaiting figures from several departments, but that the fund had approximately $7 million as of December 1999.
She said she is in the process of reconciling the account because there are five outstanding amounts against the fund from different agencies. To David's query as to how the balances could change so much, Turnbull replied, "Balances are moving targets. They get updated all the time."
Berry requested balance updates by June 20, saying the Senate needs current information so that it does not pass "phantom" legislation. She also requested an accounting by Friday of all computers purchased for Y2K compliance and the amounts paid for them.
Berry also requested an update on government vendor payments and tax refunds. Mills said vendor payments stand at about $60 million. Requests for payment "keep coming in," he said. "Once current payments were annnounced, everybody came to the trough."
He said Internal Revenue Bureau director Claudette Farrington had told him that about 95 percent of the tax refunds owed from 1998 and before had been paid, but the figures doesn't include 1999 refunds.
In other action, the committee approved a federal grant application for the Planning and Natural Resources Department and an appropriation transfer from the Office of Management and Budget.
Hollis Griffin, PNR director of environmental protection, said the federal grant in the amount of $54,602 would be used to develop an air quality monitoring program in the territory. The grant is for "particulate matter monitoring," something that has never been done before in the territory.
Griffin said no local funding has ever been available for this monitoring, and that with the grant, the Virgin Islands can continue to conduct monitoring as is federally required. He said there are particulate matter monitoring stations on the roofs of Fort Christian and the Port Authority building at Cyril E. King Airport, as well as on St. Croix.
Mills requested an appropriation transfer of $51,000 because, he said, the salary for special assistant to the director was "inadvertently" added as a "classified," instead of "unclassified," line item.
The appropriation measure was approved unanimously. The grant was approved by Sens. Berry, Bennerson, David, Golden and Jones, with Goodwin casting the only "no" vote.

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Senators got some answers on the status of the territory's Y2K compliance funding at Tuesday's Finance Committee meeting -- although some of those answers were incomplete.
Testifying before the committee were Ira Mills, Office of Management and Budget director; Bernice Turnbull, Finance commissioner; and Roy McFarlane, special assistant to the governor for information technology.
The status of the Indirect Cost Fund was also on the agenda.
McFarlane told the senators he was there "to assure" them that Y2K funds had been used for rebuilding and for "the technological infrastructure of the government." He said $28.1 million was provided through two Y2K loans -- one from Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and IBM Corp. and the other from the Roosevelt & Cross financial institution.
Under questioning from committee chair Lorraine Berry, McFarlane gave a breakdown of how a $16.1 million federal Y2K grant was expended. He said the money was reimbursement for funds previously spent on Y2K projects, not an additional sum to be spent.
To date, McFarlane said, $9.8 million has been drawn down from the federal grant allotment to "critical" agencies. He said the money has gone to the Roy L. Schneider and Juan F. Luis Hospitals; the Health, Finance and Justice Departments; the Internal Revenue Bureau; and Police 911 services. According to Turnbull, $7.4 million of the $9.8 million has been received from the federal government, with the remaining $2.4 million expected.
Berry asked how much had been drawn down from the $31.1 million the Legislature authorized for Y2K compliance. McFarlane said $11.7 million has been drawn from the Banco Popular/IBM fund, and $6.9 million from Roosevelt & Cross. Berry reminded the administration representatives that while the allocation was for $31.1 million, if they spend more than $21.1 million, they are mandated to go back to the Legislature to request an additional sum.
Sen. David Jones asked how much has been paid out of these funds. Turnbull said, "$20.3 million in actual expenditures."
Sen. George Goodwin asked if all agencies are Y2K compliant now. McFarlane replied that both hospitals and the Health Department are 95 percent compliant. Goodwin, appearing vexed, reminded the testifiers that the Senate had "been rushed" last year to get the appropriations. He demanded to know why the delay in expending the funds.
Turnbull said the Finance Department "didn't know the needs at the time" and that the "software had been slow in coming."
Sens. Violet Anne Golden and Gregory Bennerson asked whether the computers purchased came from local vendors or off-island. Turnbull said five contractors were local and four were not.
Under questioning by Sens. Roosevelt David and Berry about the Indirect Cost Fund, Turnbull said she was still awaiting figures from several departments, but that the fund had approximately $7 million as of December 1999.
She said she is in the process of reconciling the account because there are five outstanding amounts against the fund from different agencies. To David's query as to how the balances could change so much, Turnbull replied, "Balances are moving targets. They get updated all the time."
Berry requested balance updates by June 20, saying the Senate needs current information so that it does not pass "phantom" legislation. She also requested an accounting by Friday of all computers purchased for Y2K compliance and the amounts paid for them.
Berry also requested an update on government vendor payments and tax refunds. Mills said vendor payments stand at about $60 million. Requests for payment "keep coming in," he said. "Once current payments were annnounced, everybody came to the trough."
He said Internal Revenue Bureau director Claudette Farrington had told him that about 95 percent of the tax refunds owed from 1998 and before had been paid, but the figures doesn't include 1999 refunds.
In other action, the committee approved a federal grant application for the Planning and Natural Resources Department and an appropriation transfer from the Office of Management and Budget.
Hollis Griffin, PNR director of environmental protection, said the federal grant in the amount of $54,602 would be used to develop an air quality monitoring program in the territory. The grant is for "particulate matter monitoring," something that has never been done before in the territory.
Griffin said no local funding has ever been available for this monitoring, and that with the grant, the Virgin Islands can continue to conduct monitoring as is federally required. He said there are particulate matter monitoring stations on the roofs of Fort Christian and the Port Authority building at Cyril E. King Airport, as well as on St. Croix.
Mills requested an appropriation transfer of $51,000 because, he said, the salary for special assistant to the director was "inadvertently" added as a "classified," instead of "unclassified," line item.
The appropriation measure was approved unanimously. The grant was approved by Sens. Berry, Bennerson, David, Golden and Jones, with Goodwin casting the only "no" vote.