Published On: Wed, Mar 2nd, 2022

Audit Chamber is already waiting fourteen months for appointment of third board member

PHILIPSBURG — The General Audit Chamber asked the government in December 2020 – by now more than fourteen months ago – for the appointment of a third board member but in spite of repeated reminders in the course of 2021, the post still remains vacant. Currently, Alphons Gumbs is the chairman and Mandy Daal-Offringa is a board member. The term of deputy board member Sheryl Peterson expired on June 25, 2021.

All this appears from the 2021 annual report of the Audit Chamber. As usual, the institution did an excellent job by delivering this report to the Governor and the Parliament on February 28, way before the legally established deadline of July 1.

The Audit Chamber is still understaffed: it should have eight FTEs (full time equivalents) on the payroll, but in 2021 there were just four full timers and three part timers.

The Chamber produced twelve reports during 2021; three of these reports are confidential.

In August 2021 the Chamber released part 3 of its look at administrative appointments. Though this report is confidential, the board may decide at a later date to make it public. The findings in this report are related to the security screening procedure, officials serving without the required declaration of no objection and positions where the procedure was (in)correctly applied.

Another report that stands out is the compliance audit of the country’s 2017 financial statement. It concludes that there has been little improvement in financial management compared to previous years and that the financial statement does not provide a true and fair representation.

In September, the Chamber published its mini audit about responsible gambling. Conclusion: due to a lack of data the Chamber was unable to establish whether a gambling problem exists. What the audit did find however, was that the thirteen casinos and seven lotteries that are active in St. Maarten did not generate the annual fixed revenue from license fees of 10.7 million guilders ($5.98 million), but only 4.7 million ($2.63 million). It also found that subsidies for (voluntary) programs to combat gambling problems have been suspended since 2016.

The focus audit about the SSRP (St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan) revealed that the government could not account for how it spent 52 million of the available 124.5 million guilders on this project.

Yet another topic that triggered the Chamber’s interest was the declaration ministers have to submit in writing about their business interests and ancillary positions and activities. By law, they have to submit such a declaration to the Prime Minister within thirty days of taking office. The Prime Minister, in turn, has to ask the Audit Chamber for advice about the actions she should undertake based on the provided information. But since the Jacobs cabinet took office in 2020, the Audit Chamber did not receive a single request for advice.

Then there is the national ordinance on registration and financing of political parties. The Audit Chamber examines these reports at the request of the Electoral Council, but it has not yet received the reports for the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

This process is about to change because the Chamber is in the process of having the legislation related to this advisory service amended. “We believe that the finances of political parties do not involve public funds and as such, advising thereon is a violation of the constitution,” the annual report states.

The draft ordinance that contains the desired changes has been approved by the department of legal affairs and legislation in February 2021 and it is currently under consideration by the government. “The process is not proceeding smoothly,” the annual report states about the apparent 10-plus months stalemate, “though a clear reason is not known to us.”

The annual report also gives an indication of the Chamber’s performance on social media. The numbers for 2021 are: 5,404 total reach, 966 likes, 423 post engagements, 301 page views and 154 website clicks.

In 2021, the Audit Chamber had a budget of 1,487,825 guilders ($831,187); its expenditures for the year amounted to 1,178,795 guilders ($658,545), or 79 percent of the available funding. There is one sore point: deviation from the budget proposed by the Audit Chamber is only possible after consultation with the minister of finance. That did not happen in 2021: “The budget for travel and training was unilaterally reduced, without consultation.”


Click here to download the 2021 Annual Report of the General Audit Chamber St. Maarten
All other reports can be found online on the website of the GACSXM. Click here>>>