St. Maarten Government, Parliament’s interaction with Corporate Governance Council remains poor

POSTED: 04/3/11 4:08 PM

“We should be an organ that the government opens up to.”

St. Maarten – The Corporate Governance Council (CGC) has said it has yet to receive the 400, 000 guilder advance Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams announced they’d get. The declaration by the Prime Minister was made at a March 10 Council of Ministers press briefing. On Friday Council Chairman Louis Duzanson said they learned of the advance in the press and had heard nothing more since.

“We have yet to receive confirmation of the advance or instructions on how we are to take possession of it,” Duzanson said at a press conference.

            The matter of finances is a key issue for the 14 month old council as members continue to do the work of the council using their own resources and from their own homes or offices. This “necessity” for continued self financing is because the government has yet to approve or respond on the 2010 and 2011 budgets submitted by the Council. The government also has yet to approve the division key on how much each government owned company contributes to cover the budget. Because of this the government owned companies has not yet disbursed the funds.

The lack of money means the Council is also unable to hire staff and request assistance from consultants, which is allowed by law. It also means that they are unable to rent office space and that each of the members is executing the job they were assigned at their cost as the budget also has projections for these costs. The Council has also not had a reply on the Code of Conduct it made for itself and sent to government with an advice that they have the government owned companies create one for themselves or on their Plan of Action. There’s also been no reaction to a letter that they wrote requesting someone be appointed to replace Minerva Monte-Vlaun, who resigned last year due to illness and a request for the audit reports that were done at the various government owned companies.

“Because we’ve never gotten those reports, we have not baseline and we’re now trying to put together the little pieces of the puzzle,” council member Maria van der Sluis Plantz said.

Despite the lack of financing from the legally mandated sources and response from the government to the majority of its letters the council has continued to work by providing advice on the appointment of supervisory board members and the managing director of a government owned company. This has left the council members feeling as if they’re being faced with resistance.

“We should be an organ that the government opens up to, but the support, guidance and cooperation is lacking. At this point there is practically no communication from government. We’ve even had other sources offer to help us with an office, but that would have infringed a bit on our independence and also the government said no go,” Duzanson said.

The “minimal” communication the council has with government relates only to advices and providing documents to allow the council to provide that advice. For example the government has submitted the annual accounts of the Airport Financing Company, the Foundation Government Buildings and GEBE and requested the council render an advice within four weeks. In its request government says it cannot handle the accounts until they receive the advice.

           In another instance government has submitted documents on Winair to the Council requesting that they render advice on the appointment of a new Supervisory Board of Directors. The first set of documents was sent to the council on March 11. The council submitted an initial advice on March 25 and got a response the same day. It would take six more days – until March 31 – before the additional information that the council requested was presented.

Asked whether the council had met government to discuss their concerns Duzanson said, “We’ve met the government three times. Once, right after our installation, and twice since then. Our latest meeting was in January 2011. We have told them our concerns, and they always listen, but it leads nowhere.”

The council was so frustrated at a given moment that they submitted a letter to Parliament on February 24 requesting the body instruct the government to approve the council’s budgets for 2010 and 2011, for the government to instruct the government owned companies and government controlled foundations to make the funds available in one month and that government will retrieve the funding after establishing the division key. That letter to Parliament has not yet been answered.

The Council was not ready to talk about what their next steps are beyond simply continuing to serve.

“Dissolving the council is not in our hands,” Duzanson said when he was asked whether that was being considered.

Van der Sluis Plantz added, “We have had different points of frustration, but we have decided not to take the path of least resistance. I feel the spirit to fight and get it right in this group and we’ve decided that we will do this for the good of all. We also consider that we are between a rock and a hard place, but if we throw in the towel, what is the alternative?”

Did you like this? Share it:
St. Maarten Government, Parliament’s interaction with Corporate Governance Council remains poor by

Comments are closed.