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Gittens Decries ‘Wholesale Mismanagement Of WAPA’; Subpoenas WAPA Top Brass, Public Services Commission

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority leadership and members of the Public Services Commission will be subpoenaed to appear before the 33rdLegislature to address what Senator Kenneth L. Gittens called “serious and myriad” problems at the utility.

During Tuesday’s Legislative Session, Senator Gittens told his colleagues it was time to take a more aggressive approach when it came to WAPA.

“I made a motion to convene a Committee of the Whole hearing within 45 days subpoenaing WAPA officials and the PSC to ensure their full cooperation,” Senator Gittens said. “We must get to the bottom of what is really taking place at WAPA and start working to chart a new path forward. The current state of affairs is absolutely unacceptable – our bills are outrageous and service is increasingly unreliable.”

Senator Gittens has said it’s time to explore other ways to manage the utility to include privatization and a shift to greater reliance on alternative energy.
“Our economy can not grow without affordable and reliable electricity,” he said. “WAPA has a $1.2 billion debt and growing. We need to know how we got here and how we can address this debt.”

Senator Gittens said he remains concerned about “wholesale mismanagement at WAPA.” Earlier this year he expressed concerns about unreported fuel oil spills at the Randolph Harley Plant on St. Thomas and the apparent theft of $2.3 million from WAPA’s accounts.

The money was allegedly wired to an offshore account in May and June of 2018. No new information has been released on the loss – which WAPA says is under federal investigation – since Senator Gittens brought this matter to the forefront.

“As I have noted, these are indicative of WAPA’s longtime pattern of mismanagement and sweeping serious matters under the rug,” Senator Gittens said. “The current state of affairs  is very disheartening. At this rate, everyone who can afford to do so is going to turn away from WAPA leaving the utility in even worse shape. It is not simply a matter of money or the Government’s debt to WAPA, there is serious mismanagement in play.”

Per Senator Gittens’ motion, Senate President Novelle E. Francis must convene a Committee of the Whole hearing within 45 working days and subpoena WAPA’s executive leadership team, WAPA board members and all members of the Virgin Islands Public Services Commission.

“I would like to thank my colleagues for their unanimous support of this critical measure,” Gittens said.

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