TUESDAY, 05 NOVEMBER 2013
PHILIPSBURG–Government will proceed with its planned integrity investigation as well as the National Integrity System Assessment to be conducted by Transparency International (TI). The results of both will ultimately be submitted to Parliament and made public, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams told Parliament on Monday.
She said the reports will not be put in a desk once completed. They will be made public and recommendations acted on.
Wescot-Williams was summoned to Parliament for an urgent plenary session on the request of opposition National Alliance (NA) to explain the three integrity investigations that are pending into government’s operations. The third investigation is the one to be officiated by Governor Eugene Holiday based on a Kingdom decree.
None of the investigations are “penal” in nature, meaning they are not seeking criminal activities, she said.
The prime minister made it clear to Members of Parliament (MPs) as she did last month when explaining government’s stance against the procedure used by the Kingdom government to come to its integrity investigation decree that issue is not with the conducting of an investigation, but the procedure and basis used to justify the Kingdom decree.
The integrity committee put in place via a ministerial decree comprises six people from St. Maarten and elsewhere in the Kingdom. A “ballpark” cost for the committee is NAf. 300,000 until the committee makes its specific determinations. The investigation should take six months.
Independent MP Frans Richardson queried why the same people were seemingly recycled for committees by government. He wanted more young professionals to be given an opportunity to contribute. The prime minister said young professionals were approached, but they declined despite being eager to assist. She said this was because they did not want to become political targets.
The majority of questions from NA parliamentarians Lloyd Richardson, Louie Laveist and William Marlin, as well as independent MP Frans Richardson, dealt with the three carrying out of the three investigations and the cooperation of civil servants when called upon by the investigating body to supply information. Wescot-Williams said all civil servants are bound by the legal regulations about their functions and they are expected to adhere to these and cooperate where necessary.
The prime minister said many of the questions harkened back to the Parliament meeting of last month on this same integrity issue and a number could have been answered by reading the documents provided to Parliament last month.
Responding to questions from NA parliamentarians about the origin of the TI contract, she pointed out that this assessment came up since the former NA-led coalition was in office. TI was recommended by the United States government after some issues were raised about the country being used as human trafficking hub.
The MPs were also concerned that government was making concessions with the Dutch government by allowing the pulling of a fibre optic cable into St. Maarten that will benefit Saba and St. Eustatius, making allowances for the medevac helicopter at the airport and seeking ways to exempt Saba and Statia from Turnover Tax. They questioned if government was considering giving into these issues with the hope that the Kingdom (Dutch) government would pull back its decree for an integrity investigation.
Wescot-Williams said government was looking into those issues to see where St. Maarten could benefit and assist. These matters had nothing to do with the integrity investigation.
Democratic Party (DP) MP Roy Marlin said the prime minister was “very clear” on the position of government about the legality of the Kingdom government’s use of the regulation on the task of the governor to seek an integrity investigation into government’s operations. He expressed hope that the investigation to be carried out by the integrity committee will also look into third party contracts.
The meeting started Monday morning and was paused around noon after MPs posed questions to give the prime minister time to prepare answers to the questions and give MPs sufficient time to review the ministerial decree that established the integrity committee. The meeting resumed at 4:00pm.
Thirteen MPs were present for the meeting. Absent with notice from the session were independent MP Romain Laville and United People’s (UP) party MP Theo Heyliger.
Source: The Daily Herald. St. Maarten