MPs question Taxand contract and perceived budget deficit

POSTED: 06/5/12 11:55 AM

St. Maarten – Members of Parliament confronted Finance Minister Roland Tuitt during his inaugural appearance in a Central Committee meeting yesterday evening pertinent and pregnant questions about the 2012 budget deficit and about the contract the Finance Ministry signed with Taxand for the restructuring of the tax system and with Judith Brewster’s B&B consultancy.

Democratic Party MP Leroy de Weever launched a vigorous attack on the Daily Herald for what seems to be a simple typo in a story about the budget deficit, but what the MP perceived as a deliberate attempt to misquote him. While De Weever had noticed, based on letters from the financial supervisor Cft that the deficit could be an estimated 37 million guilders; the contested story mentioned 73 million.
Independent MP Frans Richardson asked pointed questions about the 21 million guilders on condominium tax the government will not collect this year and about the 17 million guilders for cost of living adjustment payments to civil servants. “Has the minister been able to ascertain which steps are taken to collect the 21 million in taxes? And what measures have been taken to cover the payment of the 17 million?”
Richardson also wanted to know whether the cost of living adjustment payment promise is based on a ministerial decision and whether the government is able to cover this payment.
Furthermore Richardson demanded an overview of payments to Taxand and he asked whether there are family relationships between Taxand and employees at the finance ministry. “Did former Finance Minister Shigemoto follow proper procedures? When and why was the Taxand contract put on hold and what have the concrete results of Taxand been so far?”

DP-MP Roy Marlin said that the Cft “may give St. Maarten an instruction if we continue this way.” He asked whether the announced higher turnover tax revenue is structural or incidental. He also questioned the decision to finance the cost of living adjustment payments from the reserves. “You cannot do that if the annual accounts are not approved. When will these accounts be completed and presented to parliament?”
Marlin also expressed his concerns about the process that led to the Taxand contract. “The minister should have motivated the deviation from the public bidding process. Who took that decision? The Council of Ministers or the Minister of Finance?”
Marlin also wanted to know whether Taxand has legal recourse in case the contract is halted definitely.

Other MPs had similar questions. Independent Patrick Illidge went as far as doubting the integrity of the previous administration by asking for a complete overview of payments during the past five weeks.
NA-MP Louie Laveist said that, if the minister’s answers to the questions were not satisfactory he would push for a parliamentary inquiry. Laveist also wanted more information about Taxand. “Who are these people?” he asked. “The rules of accountability and best practices have been violated.”
Laveist added that he does not hold Tuitt responsible for “the muck the previous government left behind, but that he expects clear answers.

Independent MP Laville asked for an “overall financial audit” of all ministries for the period of April 1 until May 31. He remarked that the increase in the turnover tax was for a set period of time until the new tax structure is in place. He also noted that under the outgoing government documents have been signed at record speed in four to five days.
Laville said that if there has been any wrongdoing, those responsible ought to be held accountable.

UP-MP Jules James defended the former finance Minister Shigemoto, saying that he is someone who would do things according to the rules. “He is not some kind of runaway renegade,” he said.
“If someone is guilty, then all ministers are guilty, also those who are now members of the current government.”
James said that the Taxand contract came about after several deliberations in the council of Ministers. “It was not the personal piggy bank of the former minister of finance.”

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