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St. Maarten integrity quick scan no substitute for Kingdom Government audit

THURSDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2013

THE HAGUE–St. Maarten is free to organise its own integrity investigation, but it cannot replace the audit the Kingdom Council of Ministers ordered on September 27.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in his response to written questions posed by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP).

Van Raak sought clarity following the publication of a front page article in The Daily Herald dated October 3, in which St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams stated that the civil service would not cooperate with an integrity audit ordered by the Kingdom Government.

Plasterk stated in his letter on Wednesday that he was aware of the newspaper article and the reports about the “possible authority” of the St. Maarten Government to forbid civil servants to cooperate with an investigation.

He did not respond specifically to Wescot-Williams’ statement, but he did point out that St. Maarten has to cooperate with the audit that has been ordered by the Kingdom Government. “I assume that the Government of St. Maarten will cooperate with the investigation in conformity with the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers,” he said.

He remained diplomatic in his answer to the question by Van Raak as to his opinion of Wescot-Williams’ statement that the investigation was a “blatantly meddlesome” interference by the Dutch into St. Maarten’s own affairs.

“I am aware that the St. Maarten Government, instead of the audit conforming to the Royal Decree, is working on its own investigation order into the level of good governance of its government,” he said.

According to Plasterk, there was reason to order this investigation at a much earlier stage.

“For a while St. Maarten has been in the news in connection with incidents and reports about violations of integrity by politicians and there are perceptions about the existence of corruption. Citizens, the private sector and foreign governments share a common feeling that good governance and the proper functioning of government in the broader sense is a problem that is bigger and deeper than it appears,” he said.

He explained that he had had regular contact with the St. Maarten Government regarding this issue. “The Kingdom Council of Ministers was insufficiently convinced that this matter had the undivided attention of the St. Maarten Government.”

And, because the reputation of the Kingdom was at stake, the Kingdom Government decided to order the Governor of St. Maarten to carry out an integrity audit, stated Plasterk. “Then it is the task and responsibility of the Kingdom Government to take the necessary measures.”

He stated that “of course” the St. Maarten Government was free to initiate its own audit. However, he added, “It cannot replace the investigation that the Kingdom Council of Ministers has ordered the Governor to carry out.”

Plasterk clarified that the Kingdom Government had not received a request from the St. Maarten Government to acquire independence. He stated this in response to a question by Van Raak as to whether he was willing to cooperate with a request of St. Maarten Justice Minister Dennis Richardson to send the independence declaration via mail when the integrity audit ordered by The Hague continued.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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