The VIIG site affords downloads of audit reports on government agencies, a history of the I.G.'s Office, the Fiscal Year 2003 audit plan with the agencies to be audited, 10 frequently asked questions and — "most important," according to Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt — an opportunity for residents to "report online instances of fraud, waste and abuse of government funds."
Van Beverhoudt said Tuesday, "I hope it will help build confidence in people to come forward with information."
People have always been reluctant supply information, he said, either because they don't have it or because they fear retaliation. "Lots of times, people come forward with allegations," he said, "but we have to have substance, something we can work with."
The Inspector General's Office has authority over the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the V.I. government, as well as its various instrumentalities.
The site answers questions about the I.G.'s role. For instance, "Can the Office of the I.G. be prevented from auditing or investigating a department or program of the government?" Answer: "No. The code gives the I.G.'s office access to all records and documents of an agency, and prevents anyone from preventing an audit."
Selected audit reports issued over the last five years are available, starting with a June 2002 report on the administration of the Hotel Room Tax. To open the files, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader software, which can be downloaded for free from the site.
Van Beverhoudt said the site was created in "about a month" by iDesign, a Florida company. He said, "I told the iDesign people what I wanted, and that I had a month to do it."
But, it wasn't that simple. "I had to turn the files into PDF files [Portable Document Format files accessed through Acrobat Reader] and scan every page. Some of them were 80-page documents. I worked weekends and nights to get it done."
Van Beverhoudt said he is grateful for the professional job that iDesign did on the site. And how much did it cost? Van Beverhoudt laughed. "I'm afraid to say — it cost $1,600, including six months' maintenance."
The I.G.'s Office, like almost all other government agencies, is facing funding problems which were not resolved in the FY 2003 budget. At the budget hearing for his office, lawmakers strongly indicated to Van Beverhoudt that they would give him the increase he requested to fund his agency adequately and fill its vacancies. However, they did not do so.
The agency is in critical need of three investigative agents with peace officer status, he said. "Without funding these positions, it hampers our work," Van Beverhoudt told the senators at his budget hearing. "We need the ability to serve search warrants. We can't put people's lives in jeopardy. All the investigative arms of the federal government have agents with peace officer status."
Van Beverhoudt hasn't given up hope. "Some of the senators have promised that they will act on this after the election," he said. "I'll just have to wait and see what they do."
Talking about the new Web site, however, he is upbeat. "As you peruse the pages, you will learn more of what we do," he said.
In addition to the information available on his own office, there are links to others sites — such as those of the auditors' offices for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, the federal Association of Inspectors General, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the various regions of the U.S. Inspector General's Office.
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