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HomeNewsArchivesAUDIT FAULTS FISCAL AGENCIES' RECORD KEEPING

AUDIT FAULTS FISCAL AGENCIES' RECORD KEEPING

May 8, 2003 – It was hard to find a lot of the computer equipment purchased from a $4.46 million federal hurricane recovery grant when auditors went looking for it, but they had no trouble locating 10 vessels donated to the territory, all of which turned into white elephants, floating and rusting unused.
An audit by the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Inspector General released this week concluded that the V.I. government's handling of nearly $1 million of the grant was questionable, largely because of missing records for many expenditures.
The audit report cited $35,662 in overpayments to contractors, $11,695 in duplicate charges and $208,800 spent in transporting seven barges and three support boats donated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but not used for hurricane relief. The auditors also found no trace of much of the computer-related equipment purchased with the funds.
The audit covered the period of 1996 through 2001, thus spanning major portions of the administrations of both former Gov. Roy L. Schneider and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
The report states that the audit found the territory's three fiscal branches — the Finance Department, the Office of Management and Budget and the Internal Revenue Bureau – sadly lacking in financial record keeping and reporting.
Finance, which had control over $3 million of the grant money, failed to file numerous status reports on its spending, submitted the final report 10 months late, and took from four to nine months to record in its own records money that it would periodically "draw down" from the grant. IRB and OMB also missed filing several reports on the expenditure of grant funds.
In their responses to a draft report of the audit findings, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull and other V.I. financial officers defended their operations, arguing that they complied with much of the required record keeping.
Bernice Turnbull said the government had located a lot of the computer equipment that was not accounted for at the time of the audit and lectured the auditors that "the normal period of technical obsolescence in the area of information technology and related equipment is much shorter than the period between the grant expenditures and your audit (in some cases a span of over six years.) It is unreasonable to assume that this outdated equipment will still be functional and in use."
The auditors conceded the relatively short life of computer equipment, but they also noted that the government has guidelines for its disposal which include recording where it went and when.
The Inspector General's Office clearly angered Bernice Turnbull by including in its draft report two photos taken inside the Finance Department, one showing a stack of unused computer monitors still in their original boxes and another showing a stack of unserviceable computer monitors and processor units awaiting disposal.
The commissioner charged that publishing the photos would constitute a security breach.
"I suggest that if you intend to take photographs of non-public areas in any government of the Virgin Islands facility, you adopt the practice of first requesting express written consent of the head of that agency or department," she said in her response.
According to the auditors, "the photographs were taken with the full knowledge and in the presence of a Department of Finance employee and did not show any sensitive facilities within the department in that they were limited to small corner areas of two unidentified rooms." The practice of illustrating reports with photos is common. Nevertheless, the photos were removed from the final audit before it was released to the public.

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May 8, 2003 - It was hard to find a lot of the computer equipment purchased from a $4.46 million federal hurricane recovery grant when auditors went looking for it, but they had no trouble locating 10 vessels donated to the territory, all of which turned into white elephants, floating and rusting unused.
An audit by the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Inspector General released this week concluded that the V.I. government's handling of nearly $1 million of the grant was questionable, largely because of missing records for many expenditures.
The audit report cited $35,662 in overpayments to contractors, $11,695 in duplicate charges and $208,800 spent in transporting seven barges and three support boats donated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but not used for hurricane relief. The auditors also found no trace of much of the computer-related equipment purchased with the funds.
The audit covered the period of 1996 through 2001, thus spanning major portions of the administrations of both former Gov. Roy L. Schneider and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
The report states that the audit found the territory's three fiscal branches -- the Finance Department, the Office of Management and Budget and the Internal Revenue Bureau - sadly lacking in financial record keeping and reporting.
Finance, which had control over $3 million of the grant money, failed to file numerous status reports on its spending, submitted the final report 10 months late, and took from four to nine months to record in its own records money that it would periodically "draw down" from the grant. IRB and OMB also missed filing several reports on the expenditure of grant funds.
In their responses to a draft report of the audit findings, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull and other V.I. financial officers defended their operations, arguing that they complied with much of the required record keeping.
Bernice Turnbull said the government had located a lot of the computer equipment that was not accounted for at the time of the audit and lectured the auditors that "the normal period of technical obsolescence in the area of information technology and related equipment is much shorter than the period between the grant expenditures and your audit (in some cases a span of over six years.) It is unreasonable to assume that this outdated equipment will still be functional and in use."
The auditors conceded the relatively short life of computer equipment, but they also noted that the government has guidelines for its disposal which include recording where it went and when.
The Inspector General's Office clearly angered Bernice Turnbull by including in its draft report two photos taken inside the Finance Department, one showing a stack of unused computer monitors still in their original boxes and another showing a stack of unserviceable computer monitors and processor units awaiting disposal.
The commissioner charged that publishing the photos would constitute a security breach.
"I suggest that if you intend to take photographs of non-public areas in any government of the Virgin Islands facility, you adopt the practice of first requesting express written consent of the head of that agency or department," she said in her response.
According to the auditors, "the photographs were taken with the full knowledge and in the presence of a Department of Finance employee and did not show any sensitive facilities within the department in that they were limited to small corner areas of two unidentified rooms." The practice of illustrating reports with photos is common. Nevertheless, the photos were removed from the final audit before it was released to the public.

Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.