ST. THOMAS — More than $2 million was reportedly wired last year from V.I. Water and Power Authority accounts to an offshore bank, according to utility executive director Lawrence Kupfer.
The incident, which consisted of $2.3 million wired via two transactions in May and June of 2018, was reported to the FBI and is still being investigated.
V.I. lawmakers, however, were incensed by the revelation Wednesday during a Committee of the Whole hearing. Indeed, Sen. Kenneth 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,” said Gittens in a statement released by his office. “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.”
The utility’s legal counsel Lorelei Farrington said the June transaction was picked up “almost immediately” by the utility, but the May transaction was not.
Apart from the investigation, lawmakers also blasted utility leadership for reportedly failing to notify local authorities and nearby residents of a diesel fuel oil spill at the Harley Power Plant at Krum Bay, St. Thomas.
“It was revealed that WAPA failed to notify either the V.I. Fire Service or the [V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency], despite the fact this was a spill involving highly flammable, hazardous materials,” Gittens said in his statement. “I requested that WAPA officials provide a copy of their protocols in the event of such spills, as protecting the safety of the public and WAPA employees is my highest priority. I am publicly asking that the V.I. Fire Service inspect WAPA’s facilities for any violations to our fire code.”
Gittens said he was disappointed in what appeared a “longtime pattern of mismanagement and sweeping serious matters under the rug” by utility officials.