St. Maarten MPs pepper finance minister with questions about Taxand

POSTED: 06/12/12 12:35 PM

St. Maarten – MPs peppered Finance Minister Roland Tuitt in the Central Committee with question related to the Taxand contract. Taxand is a tax consultancy hired by former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto to restructure the country’s tax system. Last week, Tuitt revealed that practically all the rules that should have been followed in the process leading up to the Taxand deal were broken by his predecessor.

The Central Committee meeting did not bring any new revelations, other than that the company had negotiated a 15 percent commission on additional tax revenue with a maximum of 20 million guilders. Minister Tuitt said that the contract also presented a currency risk to the country, because the dollar-payments to Taxand were linked to the exchange rate with the British pound. This explains, Tuitt said, why certain invoices from Taxand had arrived shortly after each other. “If I had a contract like that, I would wait with my invoices until the exchange rate was favorable,” he said.

The Minister announced already last week that he would ask the government accountant bureau Soab to audit the process that lead to the Taxand deal. The contract for the deal was signed by Taxand but not by former Finance Minister Shigemoto; nevertheless, several payments to the company have been made.

Democratic party MP Roy Marlin asked what the next step would be if the Soab-audit established that indeed the correct process was not followed.

UP-MP Johan Leonard managed to ask no less than seventy questions, but half-way through his epic list, Minister Tuitt interrupted and noted that the questions should be related to the topic at hand, not to the general budget. After that remark, Leonard decided to submit the rest of his questions in writing to the chair and to the media in the press room.

His fellow-faction-member Jules James also rattled off a barrage of questions that Tuitt will answer in writing when the meeting continues on Thursday afternoon at two o’clock. James said that an investigation will show that the former Minister Shigemoto “did not do anything illegal.” He asked if Minister Tuitt intends to continue the tax restructuring project with Taxand or whether he is looking for another party.

One of the more pregnant remarks came from independent MP Romain Laville: I do not believe that the former minister did this on his own. There is another rung on the ladder. We have to follow the money trail until where the buck stops. And that is higher up. If we have to go that far, then let’s go that far.”

The remark of the day came from National Alliance MP Hyacinth Richardson: “The grass is growing but the horse is starving,” he said with a smile on his face and without out further explanation.

Minister Tuitt briefly remarked that the 15 percent incentive for Taxand on collected additional tax revenue had been a suggestion by then Finance Minister Shigemoto and that it had not come as a proposal from the company. In exchange for the incentive, Taxand agreed to a 30 percent lower per diem fee.

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