The Revised Organic Act and Appropriations

The Revised Organic Act of 1954, enacted by Congress,[1] demands that “[n]o money shall be paid out of the Virgin Islands treasury except in accordance with an Act of Congress or money bill of the legislature and on warrant drawn by the proper officer.[2]  Unless appropriations are adequate for the fulfillment of a contract, that contract is null and ineffective.[3]  Funds “available for obligation for a definite period of time shall be so apportioned as to prevent obligation or expenditure thereof in a manner which would indicate a necessity for deficiency or supplemental appropriations for such period; and all appropriations or funds not limited to a definite period of time, and all authorizations to create obligations by contract in advance of appropriations, shall be so apportioned as to achieve the most effective and economical use thereof.”[4]  Appropriations are normally divided into amount, time, and purpose for ease of contract administration.  When time is not specified, there is an explicit and specific purpose for which the contract is used, in addition to a clear dollar amount allocated for that purpose.  In sum, when either time, purpose, or amount is vague, the other requirements compensate for the vagueness.


Requests for purchases must certify that there are sufficient funds, more than the unpaid obligations, to defray the purchase, and no expenditure shall be authorized in advance of appropriations for that purpose, unless the contract is authorized by law.[5]  Regulations prohibit over-obligations of funds or obligations without providing accounting records.  A clause similar to the subsequent funds availability clause, allows an agency to request performance without adequate funds, with the caveat that when subsequent funds become available for the performance, it will be allocated.  Apportionment by the contracting officer necessitating a deficiency is allowed in limited cases.[6]


Appropriated money is to be applied solely to the “objects for which they are made and for no others.”[7]  Substantial compliance with the appropriation requirements is necessary for authorization of the contract.[8]

All the while, appropriations shall only be applied towards expenses incurred that year or applied towards contracts properly made within that year.[9]  And “except as otherwise specified by the officer making the apportionment, amounts so apportioned shall remain available for obligation, in accordance with the terms of the appropriation, on a cumulative basis unless reapportioned.”[10] “Each such appropriation shall be apportioned not later than 30 days before the beginning of the fiscal year for which the appropriation is available, or not more than 30 days after the approval of the Act, by which the appropriation is made available, whichever is later.”[11]  An appropriation is still available at the end of the fiscal year when the Legislature does not set a fiscal year limitation, authorizes the purchase of a certain property, and appropriates a sum for the property.  In the Virgin Islands, the legislature hears struggles of the people.  It is fair that they decide the manner in which taxpayer money is used.  Additionally, the legislature’s adherence to appropriations laws better guide the executive branch to address the needs of the territory.  This pointed approach to the use of taxpayer dollars is critical during the disarray caused by a natural disaster- and when practiced out of a state of emergency, can be a strong, established procedure that can carry the Virgin Islands through a hurricane.





[2] 48 USCS § 1561; Sargeant v. Govt of the V.I., 1973 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5213, *5, 10 V.I. 245, 248-249. The Revised Organic Act of 1954 also states that nothing in 48 USCS § 1561 will limit the power of the local legislature to create laws for “the protection of life, the public health, or the public safety.”  48 USCS § 1561;  see 33 V.I.C. § 3108, Expenditures in Excess of Apportionment Prohibited.


[3] F.D. Rich House of the Virgin Islands, Inc. v. Gov’t of the V.I., Civil Nos. 76-62, 75-785, 1980 WL 626258, at *422, 1980 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17659  (D.V.I. May 23, 1980) (holding that contract is not executed with appropriation is void).


[4] 33 V.I.C. § 3103(a); see 33 V.I.C. § 3115 (no officer or employee of the executive branch is authorized to alter operating budgets or appropriations made to the Legislature or the courts). 


[5] 31 V.I.C. § 233; 33 V.I.C. § 3101; see F.D. Rich Housing of the Virgin Islands, Inc., 1980 WL 626258, at *422 (citing In re Hooper’s Estate, 359 F.2d 569, 577 (3d Cir. 1966)).  Compare 31 V.I.C. § 233 and 33 V.I.C. § 3101 with 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341(a)(1)(B), 1517(a).


[6] 33 V.I.C. § 3105.


[7] 33 V.I.C. § 3112.


[8] F.D. Rich House of the Virgin Islands, Inc., 1980 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17659 (citing Fowler v. United States, 3 Ct. Cl. 43 (1867)). 


[9] 33 V.I.C. § 3111.


[10] 33 V.I.C. § 3103(c).


[11] 33 V.I.C. § 3104.

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