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Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsSenators Question WAPA about Missing Millions, Leaking Fuel

Senators Question WAPA about Missing Millions, Leaking Fuel

Sen. Kenneth Gittens questioned WAPA officials about disappearing millions. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)
Sen. Kenneth Gittens questioned WAPA officials about disappearing millions. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)

The V.I. Water and Power Authority has requested rate increases that will bring the cost of electricity to residents close to its historic high, about four times the average cost for state-side residents.

And no one is happy about it, not even WAPA, according to Lawrence Kupfer, WAPA’s executive director. He told senators the authority did not want to ask for the increases but, because of its accounts payable stands at $202 million, built up because government entities have not been fully paying their bills and collection of LEAC and base rates has been inadequate, the increases were necessary.

Senators, however, cited cases they said showed poor management as a problem.

“You sit in here every single hearing. You play the victim. You hide behind the government debt,” Sen. Janelle Sarauw said to Kupfer. “WAPA has a history of poor decision making.”

She cited a case in which WAPA had purchased a generator for $4 million and sold it for $10 thousand without ever using it.

Sen. Kenneth Gittens followed up with questions after learning $2.3 million of WAPA’s money was wired to an offshore account in May and June 2018.

The incident, which actually consisted of two transactions, was reported to the FBI, according to WAPA’s legal counsel Lorelei Farrington.

WAPA’s legal counsel, Lorelei Farrington, tells senators there is an FBI investigation into millions of dollars of WAPA money wired overseas. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)
WAPA’s legal counsel, Lorelei Farrington, tells senators there is an FBI investigation into millions of dollars of WAPA money wired overseas. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)

Gittens asked WAPA’s leadership how long it took them to notice the missing funds.

“The June transaction was picked up almost immediately, the May transaction was not,” Farrington said.

Gittens said the utility could not afford such a loss.

“It is now a full year since these transactions took place and we have very little information,” Gittens said. “I am urging WAPA to aggressively pursue the return of these funds and work to see that such a thing does not occur again. This is a serious matter. We must take all steps necessary to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse of our resources.”

Sens. Novelle Francis, Myron Jackson and Oakland Benta said WAPA was not considering what it was doing to people on fixed income. Jackson and Francis said they have been hearing of people who could no longer afford electricity and were now burning candles.

Senate President Francis showed a video of a WAPA fuel tank overflowing. He asked Kupfer if he knew when the incident took place and how much fuel oil was lost. Kupfer said it took place April 30, about 90 percent of the 500 gallons of fuel oil was recaptured and the incident was under investigation.

Senators were not the only ones concerned over proposed WAPA rate increases.

Sen. Janelle Sarauw brought up a news release sent out Thursday by the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce.

“The St Croix Chamber of Commerce is strongly against the WAPA rate increase,” Sarauw reported, “and takes the position that the private sector can no longer be relied upon to bail out WAPA due to the authority’s and the government of the Virgin Islands’ mismanagement.”

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3 COMMENTS

    • Never gonna happen (unless the people who pay get angry enough to demand change). The VI government and WAPA behave like swindlers, and we the rate- paying citizens are the mark. We have been paying the government’s electric bill for many years. When one uses OPM (other people’s money), there is no incentive to economize or change wasteful behaviors. Go into any government building and enjoy the 24/7 air conditioning (or refrigeration, if you will).

  1. The untouchables! Why is he still there? When you don’t pay for anything, you don’t care about anything. We are paying and paying and paying and they are wasting and wasting without a care in the world. Why should the untouchables care if our utilities go up? They don’t have to budget , scrimp and save to pay these ridiculous wapa bills. Their salaries does not allow them to give a darn about the average people of the Virgin Islands. They remind me of scavengers that come and pick at the bones of the dead and dying and fly away when their bellies are full. I am tired of Kupfer’s nonsense like we suppose to accept his words as the gospel according to John. Give me a break!!

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