According to Island Governor Gerald Berkel, the “instruction” issued by the Dutch Government to impose administrative and financial supervision on St. Eustatius was needed to bring the island in line with was is expected of government in today’s modern society where transparency, integrity, efficiency and effective management is concerned, writes The Daily Herald.
“In order to remain competitive in this modern world, these standards are necessary to ensure the community that the basic services and infrastructure needed, can be provided to allow for realization of the economic and social development,” the Governor stated in a memo on Friday.
The administrative and financial instruction issued by Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on June 10 was met by various opinions. The Executive Council and a majority in the Island Council object to the instruction, as they feel the current coalition cannot be held accountable for mistakes made by another political combination.
Berkel said that as Island Governor he would like to offer his perspective on the instruction based on his experience of the past five years, taking into account his role and experience as chairman of the Island and Executive Councils.
According to Berkel, some improvements have been made in the last five years, but still much work needs to be done in developing what he described as “administrative discipline.”
Instead of focusing on the timing of the instruction, the Governor suggests to place more emphasis on the content of the instruction itself, and what it attempts to accomplish.
The Governor said that many signals were given and concerns raised in informal meetings and consultations, as well as more formally in reports and letters in which “concerns were raised suggesting that focus should be placed on both administrative and financial management in order to get in line with acceptable practices of modern transparent government, and to ensure that compliance with existing legislation (administrative and financial) forms the basis for all decision plans and policies.”
The instruction issued by the Minister of Home Affairs, while seen by some as a condemnation of the public administration, should rather be viewed as yet another opportunity to improve the administrative and financial deficit, said Berkel.
“These defects exist in part due to the lack of technical experience and administrative discipline necessary to take the steps…The instruction offers an opportunity for needed technical support to strengthen the organization in order to provide the Executive and Island Councils with the needed advice in executing their tasks and responsibilities.”
Besides technical support, it is equally important to stimulate a change in the governing culture of Statia, Governor Berkel said. “For technical support to be most effective, government officials must be prepared to evolve from the current “Bib Boss” governing approach. This approach is a top-down approach that seeks to “instruct” rather that consult and often results in decisions that are not in line with best practices or universally acceptable norms of good governance,” he stated.
Instead, he pleaded for more dialogue in executing government goals and vision. “This consultation process should not be seen as an erosion of power or authority, rather this provides an opportunity to convert political vision into governing policies which in turn have as goal to provide the community with basic services and infrastructure needed for growth,” Berkel explained.
According to the Governor, the instruction attempts to refocus and direct attention towards a development process in which the island government plays a leading role via the Steering Committee. This process also attempts to stimulate consultations internally and as well as externally, recognizing the role and responsibility of all stakeholders, including the local and national governments, the civil service and the public.
“While difference of opinion and inaccurate statements should be addressed in a structural and constructive manner, this process should not retard the needed progress in the area of administrative and financial improvement,” Berkel cautioned.
The Governor encouraged cooperation and continued dialogue to improve administrative and financial management “with mutual respect of each other’s role and responsibilities and the common goal of a good, transparent government.”