OSPP supports call for harbor operational audit

POSTED: 03/19/15 6:36 PM

GREATBAY—One St. Maarten Party is in support of a call issued by parliamentarians to have an operational audit done at the harbor, a call which was earlier issued by the OSPP.

“ We have been following with keen attention all the activities that have been taken place at the harbour group of companies over the last couple of years. In a media report some time ago the CFT stated that the Harbour Group of Companies refused to open its books for the government of St. Maarten, the shareholder of the company. Based on the 2013 financial statements acquired by one of the dailies many irregularities were mentioned in the article. Perhaps it is time for us to revisit that article again. It was stated that the board members were paid approximately U.S. $ 8,000.00 a month for attending only four meetings for the year; advances in the tune of some $ 160,000.00 were given to employees and last but not least the loan agreement between St. Maarten Crane Co. N.V. a subsidiary of St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies and Octavio Holdings, Inc. established in Panama with a whopping interest rate of 8%, the highest amongst all the loans at the harbor,” leader of the OSPP Lenny Priest said yesterday.

He noted that in September of 2012 the Cruise Terminal building was expanded adding two commercial spaces and increase the size of the office of the CEO. During a debate in parliament one of the MP’s stated that the project was costing the harbour some $ 1.3 million dollars. The OSPP questions the total cost of this expansion and who the general contractor and the sub-contractor were that were involved in this project. “Was there a lobbyist involved? If yes, how much was this lobbyist paid and who is the lobbyist? Is the lobbyist a member of parliament or affiliated to any of the parties in parliament or independent members at this moment? In a previous press release we stated that whatever happens in the dark will surely come out in the light. We also talked about ship jumpers, church jumpers and now party jumpers and that all of them are doing it for their own personal interests and certainly not for the people,” Priest said.

He also raised questions regarding reports that a major seafront project –St. Maarten Quarter Development N.V—is  ready to undertake their project. “These investors have met with the government and the parliament of St. Maarten and have made a beautiful presentation. All indications are that this project is good for St. Maarten, it will provide employment opportunities for our people and it is good for our tourist product. The article also stated that the general contractor for this project is Ballast Needam. The OSPP wants to know what type of guarantees there are to make sure that the local contractors would participate in this project and after it is completed that our people will find employment at this establishment.

“Too often we hear when a presentation is being made to the government that employment opportunities will be given to our people only to find out that it was only part of the presentation to sell their plans. But that the investors have different ideas about the participation of the local contractors and their employment plans once they have all the permits and guarantees from the government.” He contends that the only persons who benefits outright from these types of projects are unscrupulous politicians and the lobbyists. “Most of the times if not all the times the politicians are in the pockets of these investors and would not raise a finger when irregularities are brought to their attention,” Priest alleges.

He noted that it was an ironic that on the same day news broke about the St. Maarten Quarter Development project news also broke that Zebec Development N.V.  was embroiled in litigation with the harbour to the tune of some 100 million dollars. This project also indicated that the economic impact would be significant just like St. Maarten Quarter Development N.V.

“ The OSPP would like to know why the harbour engaged in a project development (Harbour Village) with Zebec Development N.V. in 2010 knowing that they had made some commitments some eight years ago to St. Maarten Quarter Development N.V.  Could St. Maarten in particular, the harbor carry out these two major projects at the same time?  Was the same land/waterfront going to be used by the two developers? Why does one project have priority over the other since both of them indicated that the economic impact for St. Maarten would be significant? Are there lobbyists involved in these projects also? If yes, who are these lobbyists and are they affiliated to any of the parties or members of the government,” Priest asked.

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