Published On: Sat, Jan 28th, 2023

Cadastre desperately needs a qualified director – Part 3

PHILIPSBURG — Did the Cadastre have a hidden bank account that is used to conceal monies from government? Former Cadastre-director Clemens Roos says that there has never been a hidden account when he was in charge.

The Cadastre had a guilder- and a dollar account. There was also a euro-account but according to Roos there was never a lot of money in it. “I am not aware of any other bank accounts. If there is a hidden account then it was opened after I left in 2015.”

Roos recalls that the Cadastre was financially challenged in 2011 and that it had trouble paying salaries. “This was because the tariff-system was unjust. Those who had land in long lease, often people with moderate finances, paid much more than those who bought expensive apartments or houses. That changed after a restructuring of the tariff-system and the financial effect were noticeable immediately. The Cadastre became financially healthy. When I left it had around $2.5 million in reserves.”

The objective was to build up around $3 million in reserves and to send any surplus to the government. “This way the Cadastre would be stable and able to take care of its own expenditures. The country would also benefit.”

Roos emphasizes that there was no hidden bank account. “There was no reason to have one and I don’t see why there would have been a reason for it later on.”

Roos says that the Cadastre gave account for all of its expenditures and that the annual audit by accountants never revealed irregularities, “because there were none.”

Roos ads that he is curious to know who opened a hidden bank account. “I did not open any bank account for the Cadastre. I worked with the accounts that were there.”

However, other sources claim that Robert Boekhold, who was appointed as interim mortgage custodian in July 2018, created at least two bank accounts where he parked emergency funds outside the government’s reach. That measure was taken after former Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr. took money from the Cadastre to balance his budget. The story is that these emergency funds were created from the sales of extracts that were paid in cash at the Cadastre-office.

Lake is said to have accessed these funds for private expenditures and for paying himself an end-of-year bonus without permission from the supervisory board.

Apparently, the government wants to change the Cadastre’s articles of incorporation in such a way that it will have to pay an annual concession fee.

The apparent financial irregularities that have inspired the supervisory board to suspend director Shaka Lake are not the only headache for the Cadastre. There is also a lack of qualified personnel.

“I understood that the director knows nothing about what the Cadastre is about and he does not know how to run the operations effectively,” Clemens Roos wrote is a reaction. Apparently, this does not only affect employees, but also notaries and surveyors.

“I hear that the staff is getting disoriented because they do not get helpful instructions on how to perform their duties,” Roos wrote. Those charged with the processing of deeds don’t get answers on questions about how to process the deeds properly. When notaries have questions they cannot discuss them because the director lacks the knowledge to engage in a professional expert discussion.”

Surveyors are also left out in the cold, Roos wrote, “because the director knows nothing about land surveying. These shortcomings for essential aspects of the operations have led to the staff being unhappy, disoriented and dissatisfied. This is what I was informed about and whether this is true or not, I do not know.”

Roos says that he has been approached twice since his departure for advice and he has even been asked what he would say if he were asked to come back. “I did not go into that question but after I received an article about the Cadastre I was wondering whether that question had a deeper meaning.”

Roos furthermore wrote that he is not surprised that things are happening at the Cadastre. “Since I left there has not been a qualified director and that is a crucial requirement to manage such an office.”

What should be done to improve the performance of the Cadastre? Roos: “The appointment of a qualified director is paramount. The politicians should stop emphasizing that a local professional should take that position, because there simply is not one. In the whole world there is a shortage of qualified people in this field, so St. Maarten should not be the only place where everything is fine. I am curious to see the solution for the crisis the Cadastre has landed in now, because that is what it is: a serious crisis. The Cadastre can be considered as a patient with a life-threatening sickness that needs to be on life support.”

As an afterthought, Roos mentions “that one US party candidate who was with the Cadastre was the worst one in surveying. He did not understand anything about surveying principles and when he heard that the office was giving him the opportunity to educate himself to the GED-level, he left. When I saw him doing surveying for third parties after he left I could only shake my head. What a disaster, I thought; this man is creating problems.”


Related articles:
Cadastre is no stranger to controversy – Part 2
The Cadastre in the news again – and it is not good – Part 1
MP Heyliger-Marten questions suspension of Cadastre-director