Updating Parliament: The General Audit Chamber provides an overview of its past and upcoming reports
Sint Maarten, November 1 st , 2023 — On October 27th, the General Audit Chamber briefed the Parliament’s Committee for Country Expenditures on their Annual report and ongoing audits. During their presentation, the Chairman, Mr. Alphons Gumbs, accompanied by board members Mrs. Mandy Daal-Offringa and Mrs. Sheryl Peterson, as well as the Secretary-General, Mr. Keith de Jong, emphasized the importance of public accountability and the independent position of the General Audit Chamber.
In 2022, the Audit Chamber reviewed topics such as the government financial statements, road tax allocation, and rent reductions. Concerns were raised about deficiencies in financial statements, hampering the accountability of ministers. The diversion of road tax revenue from infrastructure needs was highlighted, calling for adherence to the law. The money collected from road tax is supposed to be placed in a Road Fund. However, in practice, the money flows to the government’s general coffers and is used for general government expenditures. According to a survey conducted by the Audit Chamber, renegotiating leases could result in potential savings, but it remains uncertain whether the government will act. The audits focused on crucial aspects of accountability and financial responsibility, highlighting areas that required attention.
The Audit Chamber's recently published reports has raised concerns about the ex-officio tax assessment process, citing a lack of written policy that could lead to arbitrary treatment. The report highlights the burden of proof shifting to taxpayers during these assessments, causing confusion and stress for the taxpayer. The report on the financial statements 2022 of APS (General Pension Fund) highlights that APS fails to achieve its reform objectives. As a result, participants did not receive indexation, and the coverage ratio fell below 100%. The most recently published audit reveals that the Medical Assistance program has been experiencing severe recurring budget overruns of around ANG 10 million per year, which has been a burden on the taxpayers, while the total cost for the program is estimated at ANG 24,6 million in 2022. Moreover, the program lacks proper control measures. Additionally, the Sint Maarten Investment Agency (SMIA) is also under review by the Audit Chamber. The government and Parliament travel expenses are currently undergoing a comprehensive audit, noting questions pertaining to value for money, such as per diem rates of $ 400 per day and a lack of legal requirements for per diem accountability.
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