De Weever tells staffers:“Shape up or ship out”

POSTED: 01/19/12 1:33 PM

St. Maarten – Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Cornelius de Weever has commissioned an investigation into how he can get the Department of Social Affairs to give better service. He’s also announced that he’ll be placing a customer agent/complaint officer in the department to ensure people are “taken care of.”

The announcements came at Wednesday’s Council of Ministers Press Briefing where the minister vented his frustration over the department’s functioning 10 months into him working with them to improve things.

“Over the last 10 months my cabinet and I have been trying very hard to have the Department of Social Affairs run more efficiently to serve the population of St. Maarten. I have invested the people’s money to renovate the building and offices. I have tried to be encouraging to the civil servants about change and I have even given direction to assist the elderly, mentally and the physically challenged, but it appears that clients are still not getting the service they need and deserve,” the minister said.

As a sign of his frustration de Weever went to the department deliver the five word message, “Shape up or ship out.” He repeated that same statement during the press briefing.

“The people of St. Maarten deserve better. Those who have paid into our system. Those who need the social services should not have to endure this type of inefficiency and lack of initiative on their part. My cabinet and I have been going the extra mile to assist those who need it, because this department or many of them sit behind desks and do not take the initiative to help or even pick up the phone to make things happen. This can no longer continue. I have asked all departments and this one in particular to help everyone as they would try and help a family member or a friend. I am extremely disappointed and I will not stop until this department and the service they provide is up to par,” de Weever said.

Later he’d add, “Our intention is not to play games with our elderly, mentally or physically challenged because they are the ones that deserve it most and they are ones that will be hurt in the long run.”

The minister’s frustrations are caused by the fact that he and members of his cabinet staff continue to receive complaints about the lack or service in the department. He also gave the example of a member of his cabinet staff having to obtain a guarantee letter for someone that the department should have gotten.

“If the department had just done their job it would have been resolved. Just taking initiative of making a telephone call why should that have to end up in my office when that’s what they should be doing – facilitating and helping the people and that’s all it’s about, and if they can’t do that then my statement stands: Shape up or ship out,” de Weever said.

According to the minister the staffers are also not following directives from his office or from the Appeals Committee he installed to review cases where there was a negative advice on an aid request.

“If that can’t even be executed then those who are responsible for it need to ship out. I can’t tell you what a headache this has been over the last 10 months. I’ve been quiet about it, working behind the scenes to get the changes done and invest in the building, doing what ought to be done. There’s even a course in hospitality training. But this goes beyond that because it’s about service to our population,” the minister said.

Before slamming the department de Weever urged people to review the resolutions granting them aid and submitting for their renewal so that they can get a timely decision and avoid inconveniences.


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