Governor did not approve controversial Taxand dealPOSTED: 12/20/12 5:22 PM
St. Maarten – Governor drs. Eugene Holiday did not give his approval for the previous government to sign a contract with international firm Taxand, nor did he “cooperate” with the investigation undertaken by the government’s accounting bureau Soab into financial irregularities with that contract.
Those were the sentiments expressed by Finance Minister Roland Tuitt yesterday during the final Council of Ministers press conference for this year. Tuitt has in his possession a copy of the report prepared by the Soab on the “Taxand Scam” but it is yet to be presented to the Council of Ministers. He indicated that this will be done next year, after which the CoM can decide on whether it wants to recommend criminal prosecution for those involved in the scheme.
The finance minister treaded cautiously yesterday in highlighting some of Soab’s findings.
“When payments are made certain procedures were not followed. In this case one peculiar item in the report is that the governor did not give his cooperation to describe one of the procedures that leads to the issuance of a landsbesluit.”
Neither did he approve the contract, Tuitt said, adding that based on the inquiry’s findings internal procedures will have to be properly documented at the Finance Ministry in particular, as well as in other branches of government.
Last month he received the first draft of the Soab report on Taxand Consultancy who was given a controversial contract to implement a new tax structure on St. Maarten under the United People’s Party/Democratic Party coalition government.
On May 3 this newspaper reported that the Finance Ministry circumvented the rules for public tenders by granting a consultancy contract worth 210,000 guilders to B&B consultancy in 2010 for assistance with a tax and investment plan. Later, a company the same consultant leads landed a contract worth approximately 14 million guilders (almost $7.8 million) for the restructuring of the tax system. The company in question is Taxand, a global tax consultancy with offices in Curacao and St. Maarten. The company is represented here by Judith Brewster, who also secured a consultancy job for herself worth 17,500 guilders (a bit over $9,700) per month back in 2010. Article 47 of the national audit ordinance stipulates that buying goods or services worth more than 50,000 guilders ($27,778) require a public render, unless the national interest does not allow for any delays.
As soon as Tuitt took office in May, he ordered an investigation into the matter.
The Taxand contracted was prepared under former Minister of Finance Hiro Shigemoto who earlier this week was arrested on suspicion of fraud, forgery and money laundering.
Minister Tuitt did not comment on the ongoing Piranha investigation directly that has seen the arrest of both Shigemoto and Roberto G. thus far but indicated that upon assuming office the new government realized that there were several irregularities with certain projects. Those that could have been halted were stopped such as the Sports Ministry’s initiative of introducing American football in school.
“As government when we came in we looked at certain items and the ones which we didn’t agree with, we didn’t approve. One of them is that they were going to contract a company to institute American football in the schools.”