Funding-dilemma delays integrity assessment

POSTED: 07/18/13 12:07 PM

PM: “Government cannot pay directly to Transparency International”

St. Maarten – There is still no agreement about conducting a National Integrity System Assessment, Natalie Baharav of Transparency International informed this newspaper yesterday. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, who contacted TI in March about the project, said at yesterday’s press briefing that funding is the only obstacle that stands in the way of giving the corruption watchdog the green light.

“The source of funding for the assessment is the cause of the delay,” Wescot-Williams said. “It cannot be so that the government of St. Maarten pays Transparency International for an assessment. That cannot happen. Then it would seem that an independent organization like TI is being commissioned to carry out a report for the government. That is not the way it should be looked at. The government cannot pay directly to TI.”

The Prime Minister said that there have been discussions to explore funding-options. “We have been discussing several scenarios that can get the assessment done and paid for without it being a direct payment from the government. That is the only issue under discussion.”

The scenarios Wescot-Williams refers to are “not definite.” The brainstorm is about finding a funding agency that could make the payment. “I don’t have the solution yet,” the PM said.

There is no way that for instance government-owned companies could step up to the plate and provide the funding. “That is not possible either, because the integrity assessment is across the board. It involves the government, government-owned companies, the private sector the media – you name it. All sectors are going to be looked at for their part in the overall integrity of the country.”

The Prime Minister said that she recognized “to a certain extent” elements from the integrity assessment TI did in Curacao. “Some of those findings will come back in an assessment of St. Maarten, but it is still worth it to do our own assessment. There are going to be variances and we will realize that things are different here from Curacao. I am looking forward to receiving the results of our assessment.”

Wescot-Williams added that the assessment would get underway as soon as the funding-problem is solved. “We will make it happen. We are looking at creative solutions, but I won’t do anything underhand like taking government-money and putting it in a so-called other body. That is not the intention either.”

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