WEDNESDAY, 17 APRIL 2013
PHILIPSBURG–General Audit Chamber Chairman Ronald Halman presented the final report “Pensions St. Maarten 2011” to Chairman of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel on Tuesday, April 16.
The major finding contained in the report is that 55 per cent of civil servants were not registered at the pension fund (APS) in 2011.
Relevant governmental organisations such as the Ministry of General Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Pension Fund (APS) recognise the findings of the General Audit Chamber, although none of these entities were able to provide sufficient information regarding the scope of the potential financial impact, a press release from the General Audit Chamber said.
Therefore, the magnitude of the financial effect remains unclear for St. Maarten and, in the opinion of the General Audit Chamber, requires immediate action from Parliament.
The General Audit Chamber announced in the final report “Lawfulness of Personnel Expenditure St. Maarten 2011” in August 2012 that it would instigate a follow-up investigation regarding the registration of civil servants at the pension fund.
“In the first audit, the personnel files provided no proof of the registration at the pension fund for a significant number of civil servants. We were not sure of the exact reason for the lack of registration at the pension fund. That uncertainty led to the execution of a follow-up investigation,” Halman said. The results of the follow-up investigation demonstrate that only 45 per cent of civil servants were registered at APS in 2011.
Relevant governmental organisations, as well as APS, acknowledged the finding of the General Audit Chamber during the consultation phase of the investigation. In fact, a provision of NAf. 46 million was taken up for pensions in the financial statements in 2010 of the Island Territory of St. Maarten.
However, the General Audit Chamber did not receive any substantiation for this provision, Halman said. As a result, the General Audit Chamber was not able to determine whether the provision is sufficient. Should the provision prove to be insufficient, there will be a direct financial impact on St. Maarten’s budget(s). “We find this to be worrisome, because the magnitude of the financial impact is still unknown,” Halman said.
The General Audit Chamber is able to state that the legal consequences for civil servants are likely to be minimal. Each civil servant has the right to pension. However, the General Audit Chamber did not investigate the possible practical consequences resulting from an employed civil servant not being registered, the press release said. In terms of impact, the effects can vary by individual.
“An employment decree from St. Maarten provides a civil servant with the right to claim a pension. This is a comforting fact for current as well as future civil servants,” Halman said.
As part of the report, the General Audit Chamber issued a number of recommendations focused primarily on gaining insight into the magnitude of the financial risk.
Halman cautioned that the General Audit Chamber was an advisory body and supported Parliament in terms of its supervisory task. As such, Halman recommends that Parliament debate the findings, conclusions and recommendations contained in the report. Only Parliament can decide whether an assignment, if any, is given to the Council of Ministers in regard to the issue of pensions.