Only in the USVI would a new law need to be passed in order to get the government to pay its bills. Seriously?
We came across an article in the Virgin Islands Daily News this weekend that was pretty interesting. In a nutshell, it said how the government is a “deadbeat WAPA customer” and that Senator Craig Barshinger is pressuring the governor to implement a Single Payer Utility Fund in order to get it to pay its bills. But it seems that everyone isn’t on board considering that the governor himself vetoed it last month. But according to the article, his veto was later overridden by the VI Legislature.
Here’s a bit of what the Virgin Islands Daily News reported:
“…The fund – administered by the VI Finance commissioner – would ensure that the VI Water and Power Authority would get paid in a timely manner.
The Single Payer Utility Fund would comprise appropriated monies that previously have been released and deposited in the operating accounts of departments and agencies.
WAPA’s executive leadership often has complained of large-scale delinquencies tied to government accounts and the consequent lack of funds for maintenance of grid turbines and other power network infrastructure.
When (Governor) deJongh vetoed the measure, he said that such a payment vehicle would just create another ‘bureaucratic layer’ and so would be contrary to the intent of streamlining and securing government payments to WAPA.”
According to the article, the government currently owes the utility more than $25 million.
“The V.I. Government is a deadbeat WAPA customer,” Barshinger stated. “By using WAPA as a bank of convenience, we doom ourselves to poor electricity reliability. This is not in dispute: When its biggest customer fails to pay on time, WAPA diverts funds that would have been used for maintenance to pay for fuel. Then the equipment breaks down, months or years later, leaving paying customers without service.”
Sounds about right.
Barshinger called on the governor to make public the following information per the article:
- The uncontested, past-due balances owed to WAPA by the V.I. government, per department and agency.
- The projected debt during the next six months to WAPA by the government, with breakouts for all departments and autonomous and semi-autonomous agencies.
- The governor’s plan for bringing the outstanding balances current.
So we’re curious, what do you think about all of this? Comment away.
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