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St. Maarten integrity commission named, draft decree sent to governor

THURSDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2013

PHILIPSBURG–Government has named Head of the Constitutional Court Judge Bob Wit, former Windward Islands Bank (WIB) Managing Director/Advisory Council member Jan Beaujon and Attorney/Member of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT Richard Gibson to the independent Integrity Committee Public Administration.

The committee has to present an interim report within three months and a final report within six months of the publication of the decree. The draft national decree still has to be signed by Governor Eugene Holiday.

Deputy Prime Minister/Justice Minister Dennis Richardson said at the Council of Ministers press briefing Wednesday that government wants “to demonstrate that this is an independent committee.”

The three members of the integrity committee are charged with identifying three more members from within the Dutch Kingdom. They must first look in the Netherlands for professions of “good repute and independent thinking.”

If no one willing can be found in the Netherlands due to the impasse between the Dutch and St. Maarten government about the integrity assessment, Richardson said the members can look elsewhere in the kingdom or within international organisations.

The committee will submit its recommendations for the appointment of the additional members to the Prime Minister.

Technocrats also have to be found for the investigating arm of the committee.

The committee is tasked with the responsibility of investigating, reporting on and making recommendations for the proper functioning of the public administration (government) and the functioning of the guarantees related to this.

Further, the committee will examine the functioning of various sectors of the administration and identify the sectors particularly vulnerable to corruptive practices and the methods that were used, or may have been used, to corrupt those parts of the organisation.

Richardson said if such methods are found, the commission will have to examine the extent to which corruption exists in public administration – whether on a political or administrative level – and bring the relationships and patterns of the public administration and private organisation into picture, as well as make recommendations as to what should be done.

The committee will review and assess the existing mechanisms to ensure the integrity of government and the prevention of corruption now and in the future.

At the end, the commission will report to government on its findings and make recommendations on shortcomings, weaknesses and bottlenecks affecting the good governance guarantee within which government should work. Recommendations on measures to be taken for a sound government in combating corruption and violation of integrity will also be given.

His announcement of the first three committee members was coupled with information that the Council of Ministers had unanimously approved on Tuesday the national decree on the execution of an investigation into government integrity. That decree has been sent to Governor Eugene Holiday for signature.

The national decree outlines “a sweeping investigation” into the government with “no exception” for any sectors or person, according to Richardson.

“We want this investigation. We need this investigation. That perception out there that corruption is rampant in government needs to be addressed…The image of the island has been seriously tarnished and if those allegations are true, we have to do some serious cleaning in-house and if they are not true, they need to be banned to the land of fiction forever.”

The investigation being embarked on via the national decree and with the integrity committee is “much broader” and “deeper” than the one mandated to the Governor through a Kingdom Decree issued by the Kingdom Council of Ministers at the end of September.

Explaining that government was pressing ahead with its own plans for an integrity investigation in light of the one from the Kingdom government, Richardson said it was important for government to establish that it is serious about integrity.

Pressing ahead would also underscore that seriousness to the Council of State, he said. It is to that Council in The Hague that government has asked for advice on the legality of the Kingdom Council issuing the integrity decree for the Governor to carry out.

Richardson said should the Council of State find that St. Maarten is correct that the proper legal procedure was not followed by the Kingdom Government, it was imperative that mechanisms were in place for an integrity investigation to still be carried out.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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