Opinion: Open Government part II

POSTED: 08/25/14 11:23 PM

Dear editor,

After the publication of my first article on “Open Government” the topic has triggered many responses. Please allow me to continue on the platform of Open Government, and I ask the public to be open-minded and decide who they would put their trust in on Friday, August 29.

The Webster dictionary defines being accountable as “subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable” or, “capable of being explained; explicable; explainable.”

There are many people saying “hold us accountable after you vote us into office” and “we stand for integrity.” I am asking, how can the people hold elected officials accountable, when they aren’t provided with a proper report of business in this country?  Where are the control mechanisms that parliament enacted in this first parliamentary term of Country St. Maarten that empowered our people to indeed hold Government accountable? I say again, the people deserve to know!

How is our tax money being spent by Government? Which companies win the public tenders, which companies have contracts with government? How many technical assistants do we have and how much are they paid? How many times have a minister or parliamentarian traveled, what was paid for these travels and why? What was the purpose of those travels? Are they relevant to their ministry? What is in the contracts for government purchases that Government keeps losing cases? What did the government legal experts advise?

We all see a budget claiming what government is going to do with our tax money. However, where is the annual report stating what they actually did with the money? Does this spending also reflect what promises were made during elections?  This also counts for government-owned companies. Where are the annual reports of the BTP, TelEm, Gebe, PJIA and not forgetting the Harbor Group of Companies? What lands, buildings or services were bought and from who? And for how much? Is it market value? Or another deal made? Without knowing these hidden facts, you cannot hold your elected officials accountable. You the people, have a right to know.

Ask yourself the question, who would not want this information to be made public?

I can assure you, that I, Gerard Richardson, will champion this cause as it is something I truly believe in. Open Government reduces corruption, and the illusion of power that elected officials wield over the population. There will be no more politicians telling you, “I will take care of it.” There will be no more asking for services that you are entitled to. Government must publish their policies in order for you, the people, to know what is required of you for any service they provide.  Open Government means less money is being wasted on scrupulous matters with no return on investment, but better wages, vacation pay and periodic raises for our hardworking, deserving teachers, civil servants, law enforcement etc. Open Government means more accurate pricing for projects, which in turn will result in less taxes on the people of this country, meaning more money in your pockets.

Ask yourself St. Maarten, who really wants to give you, the people, the tools in order to hold us accountable? I ask you, to take a stand with me. Take action today, for a better tomorrow. On August 29, vote for transparency, vote for Open Government, vote for you, the people, to have more control in how your country is being managed. Vote for Gerard Richardson into parliament, your number 10 candidate on the Democratic Party slate.

Gerard M.C. Richardson 

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