Audit Chamber’s baseline study Integrity Management: Most regulations are missing

POSTED: 05/19/14 10:10 PM

St. Maarten – Almost half of the participants surveyed are not familiar with the code of conduct for civil servants and it is unclear to them who is responsible for which integrity topics within the civil service. These are two of the conclusions drawn in the baseline study the General Audit Chamber did into the state of affairs in the field of institutional integrity management.

The report’s findings present a disconcerting picture of the state of affairs. The researchers found information suggesting that “hundreds of civil servants have not taken the oath of office.” They were also not able to identify a regulation related to the acceptance of gifts, found that additional standards for integrity sensitive public tenders are lacking, that the compensation of travel and accommodation expenses has not been regulated in a legally required national decree and that the degree to which funding for the Corporate Governance Council is properly arranged is unclear.

The Audit Chamber examined to what extent “article 101 of the Constitution has been further developed in terms of regulations relating to the management of integrity.” Article 101 reads: “By national ordinance rules shall be laid down in order to secure the lawfulness and integrity of the administration and administrative action and the soundness of the financial management.”

The second question the Audit Chamber examined is to what extent the government has complied with requirements to further develop certain aspects of integrity, to develop integrity norms in national decrees containing general measures, and to issue ministerial regulations. The third question was to what extent integrity-related regulations are executed and enforced.

The Audit Chamber made an inventory of all national ordinances that have been published since 10-10-10 and of all articles that require further implementation-rules and -norms. The researchers sent out a web-based survey to 44 functionaries – with 75 questions for the civil service and slightly fewer questions for other entities. The response rate was 93 percent; only three people did not participate.

The Audit Chamber found that there is no internal inventory of secondary activities, business interest and shareholding of Members of Parliament. “Such an inventory could simplify decision making by the chairperson in terms of the application of constitutional regulations related to possible conflicts of interest,” the report states.

The Audit Chamber found that there are no rules for revolving door arrangements, whistleblowing, and implementation rules for travel expenditures, the acceptance of gifts or travel with spouses or partners, and the extension of trips.

The National Ordinance Promotion Integrity of Ministers states that – within thirty days after leaving office – ministers have to submit a declaration “truthfully affirming which business interests and assets he, his spouse or partner and his children possess. The declaration has to include secondary functions and ancillary activities plus the compensation they receive for these activities. The Audit Chamber found that such declarations have not been submitted by the former ministers of the Wescot-Williams II cabinet. These are William Marlin, Silveria Jacobs, Roland Tuitt, Roland Duncan and Romeo Pantophlet. The report notes that failure to submit this declaration is punishable by law and carries a maximum prison sentence of 3 years. It is unclear whether this rule also applies to ministers that returned in the Wescot-Williams III cabinet.

The National Ordinance requires a national decree containing general measures that stipulate obligatory and optional rules about the retention and destruction of documents, like the aforementioned declarations. The Audit Chamber neither found the mandatory nor the optional rules. “The prime minister pledged, as much as possible within her power, to give the necessary attention to the proper implementation of this national ordinance,” the report states.

The Audit Chamber queried 33 people within the civil service. They included amongst others all seven secretaries-general, heads of major departments and heads of departments with a high-risk profile. Almost half of the respondents confirmed that integrity-related implementation rules did not exist within their department. “Most respondents (possibly out of an abundance of caution) answered, I don’t know,” the report states. The percentage of I don’t know answers to seven pertinent questions varies from 36 to 67 percent. For instance, 61 percent said not to know whether the Ministry of General Affairs has developed additional rules for accepting gifts above the limit (of 100 guilders). The same percentage said that their organization did not actively maintain a record of notices about breaches of integrity.

There is a code of conduct for civil servants, yet the Audit Chamber was unable to determine its legal status. Almost half of the participants in the survey said they were unaware that such a code exists.

The report contains a treasure of data about a wide variety of integrity issues – from the use of official vehicles and mobile phones, to rules about accepting gifts, dealing with members of parliament and the compensation for business travel.

The Audit Chamber concludes in its report that “few if any formal regulations in the area of integrity have been implemented” since 1-0-10-10. The report mentions eleven pertinent integrity rules that have not been implemented or that are simply missing. The Audit Chamber also looked at the situation at the police force and concluded: “The police organization gives the impression of being head of the civil service in terms of arranging integrity management.”

The Audit Chamber recommends that the government focuses on so-called hard controls. “Specifically the implementation of important integrity legislation and the development of (required and various) implementation regulations.”

The report furthermore notes that the government is responsible for the implementation of important official ordinances. “The national ordinance promotion of integrity of ministers is of imminent importance to insure reliable administration and to mitigate conflict of interest and mixing of personal business with acts of administrative authority. This ordinance requires that ministers leaving office provide a declaration of their business interests and shareholding. Only in doing so can there be clarity regarding what has transpired during their term of office. Failure to provide the required declaration is therefore subject to penalty.”

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