Published On: Thu, Sep 9th, 2021

Government takes its time with the appointment of confidential advisors

PHILIPSBURG — In 2014 the government appointed fourteen confidential advisors for a period of two years. After their tenure ended, no new appointments were made. Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs expressed her government’s commitment to implement an advice from the Integrity Chamber about the confidential advisors in a letter dated August 9. So far, there has been no official announcement about the appointment of new confidential advisors.

The Integrity Chamber issued its advice to the government in May of this year. “The Integrity Chamber recognizes the role of confidential advisors as a required component within the government’s infrastructure,” this advice states.

But ever since St. Maarten became an autonomous government within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010, successive government have largely ignored this issue. In doing so, successive Ministers of General Affairs have ignored article 82 of the LMA, the rulebook for civil servants. This article states that the Minister of General Affairs – currently that is Prime Minister Jacobs – appoints civil servants as confidential advisors to each ministry.

It took however four years since 10-10-10 before the first confidential advisors were appointed. After their two-year term expired, another five years of neglect followed.

The Integrity Chamber advised the government in May to re-appoint confidential advisors, to clearly define their role and tasks and to put the necessary infrastructure in place.

The first step in this process is the establishment of a code of conduct for civil servants, the Chamber points out. This already seems to be a problem, or so it appears from the answer Jacobs provided: “The code of conduct was prepared on May 29, 2019 by national decree and signed by the governor and the minister of general affairs, awaiting implementation.”

The Integrity Chamber furthermore advises to provide facilities for the confidential advisors like a confidential meeting space, dedicated mobile phones, ICT-facilities and a storage vault.

Jacobs picked up on that in her response without making any promises: she asked the Department of Personnel Affairs to provide an implementation plan by august 23, 2021, and the Department of Resource Services and Support to come up with “an effective overview of possibilities to facilitate confidential meeting space, mobile phones and ICT-facilities” by the same date.

So far, no announcements have been made about the outcome of these requests, while Jacobs informed the Integrity Chamber as follows: “The government is committed to implementing this advice.”

According to the advice, confidential advisors must have “strong moral values,” “dare to be independent” and be considered trustworthy by employees and management.” Candidates must be knowledgeable about financial irregularities (like embezzlement and corruption) and about undesirable behavior (like sexual misconduct, intimidation and violation of confidentiality).