Cadastre Director Roos outraged about Ombudsman reportPOSTED: 06/29/12 1:06 PM
“I have had enough of this woman”
St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – What should have been the “historic moment” Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin envisioned with the presentation of her office’s report about its first systemic investigation, turned into a controversy of Olympic proportions yesterday after the investigation’s target, the Cadastre, expressed its anger over the one-sided report and about the fact that the Ombudsman “abused her position by mixing up business with private interests.”
Cadastre Director Clemens Roos dismissed the findings of the report op out of hand. “I have not been given the opportunity to comment on the report beforehand,” he said. “I have had enough of this woman. She is keeping me from doing my work. My attorney and I are considering taking her to court over this report.”
The Ombudsman presented the report during a press conference yesterday afternoon. The investigation into the functioning of the cadastre started after media reports emerged from the Maria Buncamper-Molanus long lease scandal in December 2010 that suggested unauthorized changes in excerpts from the public register that were issued on December 14 and 15 of last year.
Arduin noted during the press conference that the cadastre “had refused to cooperate properly with the investigation.”
But Roos says that there was a meeting on February 7, 2011 attended by himself, his attorney mr. Wim van Sambeek, the chairman of the supervisory board Perry Geerlings, the Ombudsman and her Secretary General Patricia Philips. The day after that meeting the Cadastre invited the Ombudsman and her SG to visit its office. Included with the email invitation was the Kadsys protocol. Kadsys is the Cadastre’s digital registration system. However, Roos says, the Ombudsman did not react to the invitation. Thirteen months later, in March of this year, it sent another letter to the Cadastre.
“Then Mrs. Arduin called to ask something personal,” Roos says. “I wrote her a letter about it and after that all hell broke loose.”
What happened according to Roos is that the office of the Ombudsman called the Cadastre on February 17 and February 21 several times. In a letter dated February 21, Roos wrote to the Ombudsman: “I was asked in these phone calls whether I had received an email from the Ombudsman office with a request for the perusal of a location plan and a letter of admeasurement. I never received that email.”
Roos states in the letter that he assumed this was a request from the Ombudsman office, but he soon learned that it was about a piece of land privately owned by Dr. Arduin. “Under the pretense of the Bureau Ombudsman you have made a private request, which actually amounts to improper use, or abuse of your position as Ombudsman. The Cadastre disapproves of this behavior, especially because the Ombudsman is the pre-eminent instance that has to be the paragon of objectivity, purity and integrity.”
Roos asked Dr. Arduin to “no longer abuse the name of the Bureau Ombudsman for private requests to the Cadastre.
Arduin was furious about the letter, Roos says. In an email dated February 22, she wrote to Roos that her associate called from the Ombudsman office and not on behalf of it. “That you assumed in the phone conversation with my associate that the request was done in the name of the Buro Ombudsman is completely for your account.”
Bur Roos is still not convinced. “After I wrote that letter, the Ombudsman immediately demanded access to my offices and the opportunity to interview my staff. Then I heard nothing about it anymore and now there is suddenly this report.”
The Cadastre director is angered by the fact that the Ombudsman interviewed notaries, but that he did not get the opportunity to respond to their points of view. “She should have asked if I wanted to react to their opinions, and only if I had refused to do that could she claim that I refuse to cooperate with her investigation,” he says.
The Ombudsman’s says in her report that the Minister of Vromi, William Marlin, is politically responsible for the Cadastre. But according to Roos and his attorney Van Sambeek that is nonsense. “The Cadastre is a private foundation that has been placed at arm’s length of politics. Management responds to the supervisory board. The minister cannot give me instructions. Of course I would talk to him but for instructions I would refer him to the supervisory board,” Roos says.
He adds that Dr. Arduin has been the chair of the cadastre for five years. “In that time she has not achieved anything. You know how bad the quality of her report is if she does not know as the former chair that I answer to the supervisory board.”
Another sore point, according to the Ombudsman, is that the Cadastre has not followed proper procedure to establish its new tariffs. Those tariffs have met with a lot of criticism from notaries. Roos: “The notaries have nothing to say about the tariffs. They are established by the cadastre management in consultation with the supervisory board.”
The Ombudsman concludes her report with recommendations to Vromi Minister William Marlin. She asks the minister to order the supervisory board to give account about seven issues within four weeks, and to inform her office within four weeks whether he will follow the recommendations.
The Ombudsman mentions in her report shortcomings in the registration and the upkeep of public registers. During the press conference Dr. Arduin said the relationship between Kadsys and the public register was unclear to her office.
Roos confirms that Kadsys is the public register from which it provides information to its clients. But the reality is that over the past decades the Cadastre has built up an enormous backlog of files that contain incorrect or incomplete information. Feeding these files into the Kadsys system takes time and it is at times necessary to make corrections afterwards.
The Ombudsman states in the summary of its report that it provided to the media yesterday that in the course of the investigation many people have filed complaints at her office about the Cadastre; an exact number and the nature of these complaints is not explained in th