Published On: Mon, Jun 6th, 2022

Concerns about UNOPS-involvement in construction of new prison

PHILIPSBURG — The Progress Committee is concerned about the participation of UNOPS, the United Nations Office for Project Services, in the construction of a new prison. This appears from the 43rd progress-report that covers the fourth quarter on 2021.

“St. Maarten is already two years talking with UNOPS about their role in the execution of the detention plan and the construction of the new prison,” the report states. “But up to now nobody of that organization has visited St. Maarten to assess the local situation or to speak about their role in this process.”

The report states that there is “no perspective for an agreement,” adding that UNOPS “considers” visiting St. Maarten. “The very limited obligingness of UNOPS does not create a lot of confidence,” the committee concludes.

The committee nevertheless urges St. Maarten to continue negotiations with UNOPS in a hurry, and to start thinking about an alternative at the same time. “Writing a program of requirements and building a prison can be executed for instance in cooperation with the national real estate company (Rijksvastgoedbedrijf). “The moment will arrive when we have to establish that a reasonable term for the run-up towards the issuing of a contract has expired.” The committee advises the minister of justice to investigate possible alternatives in cooperation with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, in case the country has to terminate the cooperation with UNOPS.

The Progress Committee sees positive developments at the police force, where the function book has been formalized. There are however problems with the recruitment of candidates for class 5 of the Basic Police Training (BPO). The plan was to find twenty people for this class, but it appears to be impossible to find a sufficient number of qualified candidates.

Staffing at the police force remains “precarious,” the report states. The level remains below 200 officers and threatens to go further down because on average six personnel leave the force every year.

The function book sets the number of staffers at 332 fte (full-time equivalents), which is close to the plan of approach of 2010. The legally prescribed strength has to increase to 249 executive police officers; this requires for the next four to five years the annual recruitment of 65 to 70 new police officers.

The legal position of police officers still has to be established. This regulation will have serious financial consequences; there is no final date for the establishment of this regulation yet.

The committee compliments Justice Minister Anna Richardson:”She shows the ambition and vigor we expect from a manager.” But the ministry’s staffing with qualified civil servants is still “very meager.” The acting secretary-general is only part-time available because no qualified candidate has been found for her previous function.

PHOTO CAPTION: Photo of UNOPS team visit to St. Maarten. Photo taken from LinkedIn.