Editorial: The information trail

POSTED: 10/25/11 2:14 PM

Whatever one may think of the statement issued by the Foundation Government Accountants Bureau (SOAB) on Monday one thing has become clear St. Maarten missed an opportunity to collect a huge amount of money in debt relief and somebody needs to account for that error. From the SOAB side Bas Roorda did not his job, but a analysis brings a dispute from earlier this year back to the forefront – when and how may a civil servant divulge information to a third party.
Earlier this year when Roorda was sacked a discussion emerged around statements that he was “leaking” information on potential government policy to a third party – in that instance the Board of financial supervision (Cft). Their standpoint of being intricately involved in the budget process is on record, as is the government’s response that the Cft need only be involved at the moment when they are sent the budget for review.
The picture we get of Roorda now from the debt relief situation is that he is someone who held back information. We’d presume he did so because the minister had not approved its dissemination to a third party – in this case the SOAB.
Both these images of Roorda next to each other create the impression that he had a split personality that gave out information to one body and held it back from another. That is somewhat illogical and leads to the simple and logical conclusion that Roorda could not give clear or even muddled information on the debt position because it was not available to him.
Based on all this a few things need to happen. The minister needs to give a clear accounting of exactly what happened with this debt relief, especially considering that even after was done in November the information was not forwarded to the Netherlands until March 2011. The government should also take this opportunity to clearly spell out its policy on the transfer of information to third parties with the simple matters like who gets what, when do they get it and on whose authority is it sent. The latter is key considering the recent mishap with the competition for a new national anthem, where the information was sent out without the minister’s permission and sparked a controversy.
There is a time a place for everything and considering that we’re building a foundation of hope, let us ensure that we fill in the information gaps so our people can understand the house they are living in and how it should be maintained.

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