Soraya Diase Coffelt strongly denounces the secret meeting that the media reported took place between the governor and certain senators at Government House on Monday, Aug. 21. There is no question that this meeting should have been open to the public as well as the media.
Soraya said, “The V. I. Government in the Sunshine Law requires that government meetings be open to the public, except for very limited exceptions. With our community questioning what is being done to improve our economy and our everyday lives, our elected government officials must respect the law and the rights of the people to be fully informed.”
Moreover, Soraya is still awaiting full financial transparency. On July 25, she wrote to Valdamier Collens, commissioner of the V.I. Department of Finance, requesting answers to questions raised by the incomplete financial accounting given by the V.I. Government to the independent auditors and as stated in the auditor’s written report of June 27. To date, she has not received any response whatsoever either from the commissioner or anyone else on behalf of the administration.
Over the past week, two of the three most respected credit rating agencies, Fitch and S&P, have downgraded V. I. bonds further into “junk” status. The simple truth is that, if the territory were a person, its credit score would be so low that it would no longer be able to borrow money from a bank, whether to purchase a house, a car, or even a new refrigerator.
In addition, cruise lines are cutting back visits, businesses are shutting down, and talented people are leaving as follows:
1) According to the U. S. V. I. Bureau of Economic Research, cruise line visits are down 16 percent through June, and five more visits were just canceled last week to St. Thomas;
2) An award winning, world-renowned chef is leaving the Virgin Islands and the restaurant he just recently opened;
3) A long time, Internet service provider went out of business; and
4) 81 school teachers have resigned since last year, leaving 151 total vacancies in the V.I. Department of Education.
The lack of transparency in our government continues to destroy trust among the people, businesses and potential new investors. If anyone from the public wants to find out what is the monthly general revenue for the Virgin Islands, there is nothing more than a two-page, and what appears to be a haphazardly copied, General Fund Statement of Revenue posted each month on the V.I. Department of Finance’s Web site. And, even that document shows revenue to the General Fund is down 27 percent from last year!
The Mapp Administration owes full transparency to the people of the Virgin Islands. It is only when the people speak out, ask questions and demand answers from their government officials, that there will be any form of a proper accounting to them.