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The Virgin Islands public has been informed that there were recent arrests of three individuals on corruption charges involving the alleged misuse of over $2 million in federal funds associated with the REAL ID program. The individuals arrested, of course, will have their day in court and are entitled to the presumption of innocence. In general, corruption arrests are welcomed but these few are likely just the tip of the iceberg.
As long as we have corruption unabated in our islands, our economy will never improve and progress. Many studies have established that corruption has detrimental effects to an economy as it deters investments and economic development. Fighting corruption requires not only significant manpower, but also advanced technology. The sooner criminal acts are detected and investigated, and charges filed, the easier it will be to collect the money improperly taken and punishment be meted out to the wrongdoer. If not, Virgin Islands residents are the losers.
The alleged misuse of money pertaining to the REAL ID program stems all the way back to 2008, yet nine years later, we are hearing of arrests. If there was wrongdoing, will we ever get any of that money back?
Moreover, of great concern is what was done with all the private information that was collected from Virgin Islands residents for this program – such as passport numbers, social security numbers, and dates of birth? Was this information secured or passed on unbeknownst to us to others? Will this issue also be a part of the investigation? The repercussions to us innocent residents are significant.
As states throughout the United States and countries throughout the world look at ways to effectively fight corruption, those that are at the forefront of the fight will see the positive results because of the monies and efforts expended. Without a comprehensive plan with policies and procedures to fight corruption, we are losing the battle in the Virgin Islands.
A central theme of my governorship will be to transform the inner workings of our government. Chief among this will be to root out corruption, past and present, prosecute wrongdoers, and collect what is owed to the people.
Soraya Diase Coffelt, candidate for governor