What Virgin Islander’s name makes the righteous smile and the sinners tremble?

Steven van Beverhoudt.

What name has struck fear in the hearts of the corrupt and sparked hope in the hearts of the governed?

Steven van Beverhoudt.

What name is synonymous with integrity?

Steven van Beverhoudt.

Who is this man? And how did he become the most trusted person in the V.I. government for more than 40 years, in a career that spanned the administrations of seven different governors?

Steven van Beverhoudt, a St. Thomas native and honored graduate of the College of the Virgin Islands, began his government service in 1978 with the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue. In 1989, he was appointed as the first Virgin Islands Inspector General, a position he has held without interruption until today, the date on which he has chosen to retire.

As the V.I. Inspector General, van Beverhoudt’s job is, by definition, plain and simple: Investigate the V.I. government’s use of the public’s money. In practice, it is complicated and difficult. He and his staff sometimes encounter resistance and obstruction — even outright hostility — as they track the spending and record-keeping within V.I. government agencies, departments, and commissions.

Then they report to the public about what they’ve found.

A well-run, honest agency should greet an audit as an opportunity to identify ways to improve operational efficiency. But when van Beverhoudt came knocking, the welcome mat was seldom out. And sometimes, the only sound coming from within was the whirring of a paper shredder. At other times, even when the auditors were invited in at the agency’s own request, they found the paperwork and accounting procedures to be incomprehensible.

Even when he had to battle for his office’s independence, van Beverhoudt prevailed. A high-profile move by Gov. Roy Schneider to demote the Inspector General and clamp down on the number of audits he could do ended badly for Schneider and led to even higher esteem and greater authority for van Beverhoudt.

He brought clean hands to the mud fights, and he always won.

Unfortunately, at times he had to engage a different type of conflict: defending his budget. Over the years, whenever senators cut his funds, they tried to justify their action by proclaiming that it was their duty to keep a tight rein on taxpayers’ money. Yet even the most math-challenged person can figure out what that means: If the Inspector General gets all the funds he needs, he will be able to do more audits, which is not a desirable outcome for any official — whether elected, appointed or hired — who has something to hide.

The list of the Inspector General’s audits that found mistakes, incompetence, sloppy records, incomprehensible accounting, deception or fraud — or a combination of any or all that — is almost as long as the list of more than 100 audits that van Beverhoudt and his staff performed during his tenure. Yet he has said that they always go into audits hoping for the best and are dismayed to discover the worst.

It is notable that his audit reports have not named wrongdoers, a matter that has sometimes annoyed and frustrated the public, but naming names is not the Inspector General’s job. He is not a witch-hunter. His eye is on the dollars, not on the people. It is up to others — governors, prosecutors, judges — to take the gift of information he provides and do it justice.

V.I. Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt himself is a gift. He has given us a perfect example of what “best practices” means in doing a job and living an honorable life.

Steven van Beverhoudt is leaving us today, so it is appropriate to thank him now and continue to thank him — by holding our government accountable — just the way he relentlessly sought to do.