The objections of the Executive Council against the imposition of administrative and financial supervision have been declared unfounded, Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated in a letter to the Executive Council on Friday. The Minister’s decision was based on the findings of the advisory committee, which held a public hearing on Statia’s appeal on October 2.
Minister Plasterk also informed Committee for Financial Supervision CFT, Dutch Government Representative Gilbert Isabella and the chairpersons of the Dutch Parliament’s First and Second Chambers of his decision to decline the appeal.
The Executive Council immediately filed a former appeal after Minister Plasterk imposed “higher supervision” on Statia on June 17.
At first, Minister Plasterk rejected the appeal as it was not properly signed, but after that omission was remedied, the Executive Council’s appeal was declared admissible.
The appeal was heard during a formal hearing, which took place at Old Gin House hotel on October 2, during which Commissioners Reginald Zaandam and Astrid McKenzie-Tatem brought forward the Executive Council’s objections against the instruction.
These objections were manifold, and claimed that the instruction was based on bias and had been ill-prepared. Furthermore, it was stated that the instruction was, in fact, an “admission of failure” of previous executive councils, for which the current Island Government could not be held accountable. It was also stated that the reproaches concerning the hiring of civil servants had been insufficiently substantiated.
The Executive Council also claimed that the instruction was not based on CFT’s advice and had been unnecessary and too drastic as the instruction interfered with the agreed “timetable” with CFT to bring the island’s finances back in order.
In its advice to the Minister, the advisory committee addressed these objections one by one. The committee agreed with the Executive Council that the Commissioners did not have the opportunity to give their opinion prior to the decision to impose higher supervision. However, this omission was “fixed” by the October hearing, the committee stated.
As to the objection that the current Executive Council was being “punished” for mistakes made by previous island governments, the committee said the instruction to the Government Representative and the establishment of a steering group to draft a plan of approach to bring the administrative problems back in order, as well as the instruction to solve Statia’s financial problems, apply directly to the Executive Council’s responsibilities and powers.
Dating back from July 3, 2013, up to and including June 4, 2015, CFT had repeatedly mentioned positive and negative developments in its correspondence with the Executive Council and with Island Governor Gerald Berkel, in which CFT stated it had “persistent concerns” about the quality of financial management of the Public Entity St. Eustatius. “This trend was not broken with the arrival of the new Executive Council, it emerged from this correspondence,” the advisory committee stated.
It was added that the current Executive Council does not only hold responsibility for its own acts or negligence, but that it is also held to act expeditiously in taking measures to solve problems resulting from acts by previous Executive Councils of the same, or a different signature.
Claims that the instruction and plan of approach had put an unacceptable strain on the limited capacity of Statia’s civil service were deemed unfounded.
The committee found the contested allegation that the Executive Council had failed to follow the legal procedures in hiring civil servants, especially when this was not covered by the budget “sufficiently understandable” and “substantiated.”
The committee agreed that the instruction could be considered untimely and somewhat out of proportion, and said that imposition of “preliminary supervision” would have been more in line with CFT’s recommendations.
However, in retrospect, and in light of the fact that “the necessary improvements in financial management have still not materialized…lighter forms of governmental cooperation and guidance” would not have sufficed, the committee stated.
The four-member advisory committee concluded that critical remarks could be made concerning the coming about of the instruction and about its dimensions and actual date of issue, but “under the current circumstances” parties were urged to execute the plan of approach “with great vigour” and in close connection with budgetary measures and improvement of financial management.
In his letter to the Executive Council, Minister Plasterk echoed the advice and said he was confident that since the appeal procedure has now been concluded, the plan of approach should be implemented “in the interest of the public entity and its residents…on short notice.”
Stakeholders may appeal the Minister’s decision to uphold supervision at the Court of First Instance Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba until December 18.
The Daily Herald.