Integrity Project Bureau established

POSTED: 11/18/14 12:06 AM

St. Maarten – The organizational structure to ensure that integrity on St. Maarten is handled in an adequate manner has been approved by the Council of Ministers, and the government is not against an offer of assistance received from the Netherlands last week.

“Reacting to a communication received on Thursday with an offer of the Netherlands to be allowed to provide input to St. Maarten’s plan of approach on integrity, the Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson, stated that the Council of Ministers is receptive to any constructive offers of support to St. Maarten as an autonomous country in addressing integrity matters. However, as St. Maarten has been accused (albeit wrongly) of “doing too little too late” and “being not aware of the urgency of the matter” too much is momentarily at stake to permit a possible delay. Pending receipt of a concrete written offer and or suggestions from the Netherlands, therefore, the trajectory to improve integrity and to fight integrity breaches and corruption as set out by the Government of St. Maarten continues,” a press release on behalf of the Government of St. Maarten states.

The recommendation to install a workgroup to be tasked with the implementation of the various reports (PwC, Wit-Samson, and Sint Maarten General Audit Chamber) was formally complied with in two Council’s meetings in the period of October 31 and November 13 2014.

This workgroup, now established as a project bureau, consists of the Acting Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance, the Secretary General of the Ministry of General Affairs and is led by the Acting Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice and supported by the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers.

The necessary preparation meetings of the project bureau have been ongoing since October and the plan of approach is currently being further detailed. For effectiveness, the recommendations of the reports were categorized into six priority areas. Each priority area will be headed by a project leader for the actual execution and drafting of policies, laws and other products needed according to the recommendations. The categories are defined as follows: Legislation, Integrity Chamber, PR /Communication, Human Resource Management, Governance Development as well as Maintenance of Law, Order and Governance.

“The initial time schedule for the implementation of the integrity measures covers a period of nearly two years, in which phase one concerns implementation activities determined for the period until January 2014, phase two: between January 2015 and July 2015 and the third phase from July 2015 until the middle 2016, whereby new legislation is the most time consuming factor. This planning is being further detailed at the moment,” the news release states.

In addition, an independent oversight committee has been established to monitor the progress and to ensure that the plan of approach meets the required deadlines. The government is in the process of approaching high profile persons both on a local level and elders to sit on this committee. Already President of the Constitutional Court of St. Maarten, Judge Jacob Wit and member of the Council of Advice of St. Maarten Jan J. Beaujon have agreed to serve on the oversight committee. A third candidate in the Netherlands is being approached.

High priority for the Council is also the establishment of an Integrity Chamber. Awaiting the necessary legislation, an independent person meeting high standard qualifications will be appointed as Integrity Controller (“Toezichthouder Integriteit”). The main responsibility is reporting on integrity breaches, recommended sanctions and remedies directly to the Council of Ministers as a body. Finalization of this appointment will occur within short.

On a weekly basis the Council of Ministers will be discussing the topic State of Affairs Integrity and its progress to be based also on reporting of the Project Bureau Integrity, the Integrity Controller and the Oversight Committee Integrity. The Council also decided to give follow up to the recommendation to avoid a possible conflict of interest by ministers, by addressing this matter at the onset of every Council of Ministers meeting.  Ministers will have to state if there is any conflict of interest with matters to be discussed and or decided on in the meeting. In the event that such is the case the chairperson will see to it that there will be no participation in the decision making process on that topic or topics by the respective minister or ministers.

“The Minister of Justice has taken measures and is taking more measures to heighten the security at the airport and harbors to prevent abuse of these critical infrastructures by criminal elements. A project organization is being put in place to coordinate the efforts in this regard between all law enforcement agencies. The port authorities are being requested to participate. Permission has been granted to the Public Prosecutors office to expand its support staff with two “parket secretarissen”. Also the National Detective Service has permission to expand the organization with four full time detectives/specialists this year. Recruitment however takes time. Furthermore the Prosecutors Office will appoint one of the five prosecutors as coordinator for the investigations by the National Detective Service who will then be able to help give content for the implementation of the recommendation to execute an anti-corruption campaign.”

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