What is the status of Integrity in Sint Maarten anno 2023

June 7, 2023 3:09 pm

Dear Mr. Editor, please allow me with your kind permission to bring the following to the attention of the reading public at large.

The Integrity Chamber came about because: de Gouverneur van Sint Maarten , in overweging genomen hebbende: dat de in verscheidene rapporten gesignaleerde problematiek rond integriteit van het bestuur en staatsbestel een toereikende en daadkrachtige aanpak tot verbetering van de onstane situatie vereist en dat deze aanpak bij deze wordt voorgesteld, augustus 21, 2015.

By perusing this Federal Ordinance on Integrity we learn the following:
- Chapter 1 Institution and task, article 1 - 4
- Chapter 2 Layout and Composition, article 5 - 14
Integrity Chamber, paragraph 1
Secretariat, paragraph 2, articles 15 – 16
Admittance law, paragraph 3, article 1
- Chapter 3 Supervision, Management, and Resources, article 18 – 20
- Chapter 4 Advice from the Integrity Chamber
Paragraph 1, integrity violations, article 21 – 25
Paragraph 2, integrity policy, article 26 – 27
- Chapter 5 Registry and reporting, articles 28 – 29
- Chapter 6 Other provisions, article 30 – 32
- Chapter 7 Transitional and final provisions, articles 33 – 37.

First of all, congratulations are in place for Mr. D. Franco on his appointment of being the first-ever President of the Integrity Chamber Supervisory Council. Apparently, Mr. Franco was appointed by Kingdom Decree as of January 1, 2023, for a term of three years. Why is it that we the people of Sint Maarten are only now learning of this appointment in June, some 5 months later?

The Federal Ordinance establishing the Integrity Chamber went into force on August 21, 2015. Can the Integrity Chamber or the Prime Minister explain to the people of Sint Maarten, why there is a lapse, and lack of continuity, seeing that some 7 years later it is deemed relevant to fill the important vacancy of President of the Integrity Chamber Supervisory Council? Why wasn’t this undertaken before?

Mr. Editor, something appears not kosher, and we the people have been kept since 2015 in the dark. The last CFT Chairman during his farewell address reportedly said that Corporate Governance was one of the biggest challenges facing Country Sint Maarten and that the Integrity Chamber should fall under the CFT. Was this former chairman of the CFT alluding to something that has been hidden from the people of Sint Maarten by the Executive branch?

I guess some info can be gleaned from the fact that according to Chapter 3, titled Supervision, Management, and Resources, there was no one appointed to head this most important office of the Supervisory Council, until the recent appointment of Mr. Franco as of January 1, 2023. For perhaps the last 5 months Mr. Franco was working from his residence. Needless to say, we are glad that he is finally here, as his delay could not have been caused by immigration issues. Chapter 2, paragraph 3, article 17, is applicable to him and his family.

Mr. Editor, the expectation was created in 2015 that better days are coming through the inception of the Integrity Chamber but there was no real commitment from the sponsors, the cabinet of the Governor, the Prime Minister, and the Kingdom Council of Ministers to achieve such.

So now that it has been established that the Integrity Chamber has been understaffed since its inception, it is equally established that the people of Sint Maarten have been fooled once again. The people of Sint Maarten are constantly made fools of because we as a people hate reading. The people are kept under stress all the time that the only thing on their mind is survival. So efforts have to be put in place to fight on many fronts among them self-development, self-enrichment, integrity, and emotional intelligence.

Mr. Editor, it would appear that unless the Integrity Chamber can prove its legitimacy for being part of the fabric of this society in a positive way meaning, living up to the expectations created, it should be abolished. There is no need for more toothless tigers.

Chapter 5, articles 28 – 29 titled Registry and Reporting. To whom does the Integrity Chamber have to report? Could the 28 – 29 be amended to reflect reporting to the people of Sint Maarten? Can this be done retroactively? This info is of particular interest because the people can then determine for their self if there has been a hands-off approach to the ills that were going on in the government-owned companies. It is reported that SOAB reports on Gebe and Telem are hidden and not shared. What role is the Integrity Chamber playing here? Is this the way good governance, integrity, and transparency should be promoted?

Did the Integrity Chamber look into the fact that many articles of incorporation were written more than 12 years ago? Are the lessons learned from the Enron scandal incorporated sufficiently in the articles of incorporation? If the Corporate Governance Code or the application thereof is not yielding improvement across the Boards, how is this been addressed? What about the Sarbanes Oxley Act, has the Corporate Governance Code been equally updated?

The environment in which business is conducted in Sint Maarten is a changing one. 10 years ago there were many companies that could have done audits, today there are hardly any. This means among others that murders are being committed in broad daylight and no one cares. Many guard rails have been removed.

The Integrity Chamber knew it was not well staffed, there was no president of the Supervisory Council yet the appearance was maintained that all is well. Did the aspects of the statute of limitations figure in any of these musings when contemplating the vacancies to be filled? Were there any conflicts of interest and how were these resolved?

The governor used many reports to come to the conclusion that integrity was lacking in our society and the governor justified the birthing of the Integrity Chamber through these conclusions.

Some 7 years on can the governor, there is a continuance of office, informed the people of Sint Maarten what the effects are of having a not properly functioning Integrity Chamber?

The people will patiently wait and murmur later. Mr. Editor thanks kindly for the space.

John A. Richardson