Published On: Thu, Jan 23rd, 2020

After seven years Keith Franca returns to consulting – with a plan to visit seven islands

PHILIPSBURG – After a seven year-tenure Keith Franca (64) left his position as managing director of the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) per the end of 2019. His successor is 30-year old Makhicia Brooks.

Franca led the fund since its inception in 2012. Over the past seven years the fund had 27 million guilders ($15 million) at its disposal. “Approximately 23 million guilders ($12.7 million) went towards funding projects, programs managed by foundations in youth development, social care, gender support, senior support and district and community improvement,” Franca said by email in answer to questions from stmaartennews.com.

Between 2017 and 2019 the fund allocated 4.4 million guilders ($2.44 million) to its elderly project, the largest single project in its history.

With so much money going around it is tempting to assume that there must have been a lot of political pressure to steer spending in a certain direction, but Franca says that this is not the case.

“We never ever had politicians that tried to interfere. I can attest that we maintain excellent relations with all governments since 2012. We are one of the few foundations and NVs that reports every three months to the government. We are giving the government and other funders five reports per year – four quarterly ones and one audited annual report.”

BDO St. Maarten produces the foundation’s quarterly reports while the Stichting Overheids Accountants Bureau (SOAB) Curacao does the audit. SOAB St. Maarten annually audits internal processes.

The Development Fund signed a Fund Management Agreement with the government of St. Maarten, a legally binding agreement that outlines the relationship between the two parties. “The SMDF is one of the few foundations that submits its annual financial statements strictly on time and consistently every year since its founding,” Franca said.

He emphasized that the Development fund was set up “strictly adhering to the Corporate Governance Code with no outside interference, nor meddling from politicians. The board is entirely a-political.”

Franca noted that the original incorporating articles were not in conformity with the Corporate Governance Code. With the approval of the board and the prime minister at the time, the articles were revised in 2013.

The Council of Ministers approved in 2013 extensive profiles for the foundation’s board members. The three incorporating members fill the following profiles: Financial (Marinka Gumbs), Social Development/Social Work (Joy Arnell) and Social Development/Funding /Project Management experience (Richelda Emmanuel).

There is also a legal profile (filled by attorney Zylena Bary) and a second financial profile (Ahmed Bell, who also serves on the board of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten).

The foundation operates independently from the government – and therefore from political influence; this also appears from the fact that board members are appointed by the board and not by the government.

After the passing of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the Development Fund asked for and received 2.5 million guilders ($1.38 million) from the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. “The funds received before that – 1.9 million guilders (a bit more than $1 million) were destined for a project for seniors with a home repair component,” Franca says. “After Irma the damages increased and we received the additional 2.5 million.”

The Development Fund is “one of the few organizations in St. Maarten that actually funded the successful rebuilding of homes after Irma,” Franca adds. “The White and Yellow Cross did 46, the Red Cross quite a few and the UNDP (United Nations Development Fund) roofs only. The Salvation Army, the international humanitarian aid agency ADRA of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Samaritans Purse provided materials.”

Keith Franca photoFranca’s seven-year stint at the Development Fund crowns an almost 45-year long career that began in 1975 when he started work as a front office clerk and night auditor at the Mullet Bay Resort and Casino. A year later he became assistant manager and from 1980 to 1981 he was the resort’s personnel manager and director of personnel.

In the years that followed, Franca held managerial positions at the Summit Resort Hotel (1981-1986), the Belair Beach Hotel (1986-1988) and the Dawn Beach Hotel (1988-1991) before returning to the Mullet Bay Resort and Casino from 1991 to 1994 as general manager.

Franca spent the next eleven years as the managing director of a consulting firm, Priority Resource Management. In 2006, he moved to the St. Maarten Ports Authority for three years in the same position before he became chief operating officer at the Harbor Holding Company – a position he held from 2009 to 2012.

Franca also held several functions at the Hotel Association – as president, vice-president and secretary, as a board member of the Caribbean Hotel Association, as a member of the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club and, currently, as president of the Alzheimer Foundation.

What is somebody with such a storied career going to do now? Says Franca: “The next four months I will ensure proper management transition to Miss Brooks for a couple of hours per week. I will also advertise and recommend new board members as the three incorporators retire in May 2020. Furthermore, I will complete work related to the audit for 2019.”

Of course, that’s not all: “I will return to my consulting business, coach and develop young and upcoming youngsters in their careers and in business management and write a few books about hospitality history and personalities. Furthermore I have a bucket list to complete which includes visiting seven islands I have never been to in the Caribbean.”

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