Former ministers fail to submit financial declarationsPOSTED: 07/31/14 10:50 PM
PM unaware of blank filing by former Justice Minister Duncan
St. Maarten – Not all ministers that left office after the fall of the second Wescot-Williams cabinet have filed a declaration of their assets and financial affairs, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said at yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing. The General Audit Chamber stated in a report about institutional integrity in May that ministers who leave office have to submit a declaration “truthfully affirming which business interests and assets he, his spouse or partner and his children possess.” This rule is based on the National Ordinance Promotion Integrity of Ministers.
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. Failure to submit this declaration is punishable by law and carries a maximum prison sentence of 3 years.
“Some ministers have filed a declaration, but not all of them,” Wescot-Williams said yesterday, without indicating which former ministers are still lacking in this respect.
Asked whether she took action upon receiving a declaration from the former Justice Minister of Justice Roland Duncan that was (reportedly) blank and stated as the only asset the car his wife is driving, Wescot-Williams said: “I do not know of such a statement from the former minister of justice that you are referring to. There was some correspondence with the minister of justice about his filing, but I am not aware of receiving one of the nature you are referring to.”
Asked whether she would have been aware of such a declaration if she had received one Wescot-Williams answered: “Yes, if it was in the fashion you indicated, yes. I say this with a little hesitancy because I do not remember exactly where that discussion with the minister about his filing ended. There was correspondence back and forth.”
Asked what she would do with a filing that seemed off and whether this required any action from her, the prime minister said: “No, that is the individual responsibility of the minister according to the law in which I have no role. This is different from the screening process whereby I am supposed to look at what is presented. When necessary I would have a discussion with the Council of Advice about certain matters that could appear on a declaration by a minister.”
When this newspaper pointed out that these circumstances make a strong case for complete public disclosure, Wescot-Williams said diplomatically, “That is currently a discussion, especially in our political circles.”
On Monday, the Democratic Party and all of its candidates form the upcoming elections endorsed the Open Government Partnership agreement, an initiative from candidate Emil Lee. This partnership strives for full public disclosure of the assets of elected and appointed political functionaries.