Opinion: All in the familyPOSTED: 06/6/12 11:57 AM
Something smells not pretty: the Taxand deal. Former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto was caught with his pants down on Monday when his successor Roland Tuitt revealed what he had found out.
At his last press conference, Shigemoto gave the impression that Taxand had devised a financial analysis but that it had not been approved by the council of Ministers yet. He also noted that the department of fiscal affairs would have to draft an advice for the Council of Ministers fist.
It has already become clear that Taxand had managed to make a deal with the Finance Ministry while there was no public tender. This newspaper reported on May 21 that the ministry had simply circumvented the requirement for a public tender for a related consultancy job to B&B Consultancy of Judith Brewster, based on information obtained from the former (and in the meantime fired) head of the finance department Bas Roorda.
Now it appears that the Taxand deal also sailed through the system without a public tender – a requirement for all projects worth more than 50,000 guilders (about $28,000); The Taxand contract is valued at between 11 and $14 million – plus an unspecified amount in so-called out of pocket expenses for airline tickets, car rental and hotel costs.
While Shigemoto stated in his press conference that Taxand was obviously already at work, his successor has now established that: 1. there was no (obligatory) public tender, 2. There were no terms of reference, 3. The contract has not been signed by the finance ministry and 4. Payments have been made to Taxand while there is no national decree signed by the governor to justify these payments.
All in all a big mess, and at least one parliamentarian asked on Monday about possible family ties between people at Taxand and employees at the finance ministry. Bas Roorda made that clear earlier in May: Judith Brewster, a managing partner at Taxand and also the managing partner at what probably is a one-woman show called B&B Consultancy is a sister of Ruth Brewster who works at the staff bureau of the finance department. Roorda described Secretary General Sherry Hazel and Ruth Brewster in an email to this newspaper unceremoniously as “the cavia sisters who attempt to conduct a reign of terror in the civil service at the finance department.”
So the family ties between the ministry and Taxand / B&B consultancy have been sufficiently established.
Shigemoto also took a hit when Minister Tuitt revealed that, apart from higher revenue in turnover tax in the first quarter of this year, the country also collected less profit taxes. The first result springs from the increase in turnover tax from 3 to 5 percent; the second result mirrors the state of the economy.
How this unsavory affair will continue is predictable; if Shigemoto is going to react at all, he will probably attribute Tuitt’s findings to political mud throwing and as an attempt to defame his character. The fact remains however, that the Taxand involvement in the restructuring of the country’s fiscal system has ground to a halt. The 15 percent the company wrote into its contract as a bonus for additional revenue St. Maarten would collect as a result of its efforts was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.
We’re curious to see how all this will affect Shigemoto’s bid for the top job at the reporting center for unusual financial transactions MOT – but that is another story.