Row with Soab frustrated debt relief program

POSTED: 10/14/11 12:26 PM

St. Maarten – A row between drs. M.J. Hooi, the in the meantime fired audit manager of the government accountant bureau Soab, and former head of the finance department Bas Roorda had disastrous consequences for St. Maarten’s debt relief program. This appears from a document Roorda prepared for his upcoming court case against the government.
In it, Roorda describes how a difference of opinion with Hooi led to 27 accountant statements about outstanding debts that all “withheld opinion,” meaning that the accountants declined to guarantee that the debt was genuine. If the Soab had stated instead that it was possible that these debts existed, the Netherlands would have paid these debts.
Roorda describes in the document that Hooi was charged with issuing accountant statements about the balance of debts St. Maarten had to several creditors. Based on these statements, the Netherlands would pay the debts.
There was however a problem, Roorda wrote. “Due to the inadequate administration the balances started to show deviations. This was caused by the fact that the Receiver, who remarkably enough also makes payments, never gives specifications of what exactly is being paid. If you keep this up for years, you will automatically get differences.”
According to Roorda, Hooi only wanted to issue statements of approval when the balances of the creditor and the administration of the Island Territory were identical. “He constantly asked the creditor for information and then waited for months for answers that never came.”
When this practice put the debt relief program under time pressure, Roorda contacted Kingdom Relations in The Hague, the party charged with paying the debts. “There I was made aware of the “can” rule. This means that if it can be made plausible that a debt exists, it may be paid. So there was no need for an exact connection between those balances. State Secretary Bijleveld confirmed this in writing.”
The next step Roorda took was to express his dissatisfaction with the Soab and its audit manager Hooi about the delays. He urged the Soab to issue the statements immediately. “Hooi reacted incensed,” Roorda wrote. “In the meantime he has been fired by Soab.”
Roorda wrote that the Soab issued 27 accountant statements that all contained a “withholding opinion” conclusion. “Based on these statements, Roorda, wrote, “debt relief could not take place.”
Minister Shigemoto is holding Roorda accountable for the situation. “I suppose that Minister Shigemoto is of the opinion that there is a connection between the withholding of opinion by the Soab and my reference to the “can” rule.
Roorda states that, had Shigemoto addressed the issue with him, he could have told him that debt relief is possible based on the can” rule, “because the balances in the inadequate administration have started to show differences throughout the years. That made it impossible to meet the Soab’s requirements.”

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