Published On: Mon, Nov 28th, 2022

Former Minister Tuitt dodged wage taxes as director of Aruban lottery-foundation

PHILIPSBURG – Former Minister of Finance Roland Tuitt is out of a job again, after the Aruban Court in First Instance dissolved his labor contract with FLDP (Fundashion Lotto da Deporte), an organization that organizes lotteries on Aruba. Tuitt wanted compensation for his dismissal, but the court ruled that FLDP does not have to pay him anything. It also appears from the ruling that Tuitt dodged wage taxes for more than 150,000 guilders (around $83,800) during his tenure.

The relationship between FLDP and Tuitt, described in the court ruling as a “(former) Certified Public Accountant,” began on September 17, 2017, when the former minister’s company, R.S. Tuitt CPA NV, signed a consultancy agreement. On January 15, 2019, FLDP appointed Tuitt as its interim director, the successor of Di Stefano Wernet who had started working in that position on December 27, 2017.

The foundation offered Tuitt a generous package: 17,000 guilders ($9,497) monthly salary, a vacation allowance of 16,320 guilders ($9,117), a thirteenth month at the end of the year, 500 guilders ($279) monthly representation costs, annual pension contribution of 6,210 guilders ($3,419), healthcare insurance, the use of a car and compensation for all related expenditures and 23 days of paid vacation.

While Tuitt executed the daily management functions at the foundation since August 1, 2019, it took until August 29, 2020, before parties signed a written labor contract. His appointment as director followed per September 1, 2020, on a five-year contract that would end on August 31, 2025. The court document mentions a 15,300 guilders monthly salary, a thirteenth month and 23 vacation days. Tuitt would be entitled to financial compensation (twelve months of salary) if the foundation terminated the contract without urgent reasons.

On October 19, 2021, a new board of supervisory directors took office. Two days later they asked Tuitt for several documents and for answers to questions related to an upcoming accountant control. On December 1 of that year, Tuitt submitted a draft budget.

For three months, until February 2022 the supervisory board corresponded with Tuitt about the appointment of an accountant for the 2021 audit, a Quickscan and about hiring consultancy bureau Tundruk.

Tuitt announced his opposition in a letter dated March 7, 2022. He expressed doubts about the independence of Tundruk’s attorney Arlene Ellis-Schippers because of her work as a coordinator for a minister. Tuitt also did not see the need for hiring Tundruk, saying that examining already signed contracts for a second time had no additional value. “Double expenditures for the same work is inappropriate management. That could qualify as fraud,” he wrote.

Tuitt also ridiculed the decision to charge Grant Thornton with a financial review, followed by another review by an attorney whose independence he questioned.

The supervisory board was not impressed. It reproached Tuitt in a letter dated March 19 that he had offered little insight into the foundation’s financials and in the factors that had resulted in a worrisome and unhealthy financial situation. “You attitude is not conducive for obtaining these insights.”

The board furthermore noted that Tuitt was frustrating the execution of its tasks. “Your lack of transparency has been a point of concern from the beginning. After we asked for a copy of your labor contract and the annual accounts from the CBNA your attitude has worsened in an unacceptable way.”

The supervisory board did not appreciate the contents of the letter Tuitt sent them on March 7: “Your insinuations are untrue and unacceptable.”

The board stated that all this called into question Tuitt’s priorities related to guaranteeing the foundation’s interests. “This is worrisome and we urge you to change your attitude.”

Things were about to get worse. On April 13 the supervisory board sent a letter to Tuitt with questions about payments he had made to himself, to Mrs. De Meza and to the former supervisory board, adding that this had resulted in a lack of confidence.

On May 16 the board suspended Tuitt and announced that his contract would be terminated with 6 months notice.

On August 18, 2022, the board fired Tuitt per that same date: ‘The complete supervisory board has irreparably lost its confidence in you.” The dismissal letter contains plenty of reasons. Among them are concocting a misleading annual account for 2020 and mismanagement: Tuitt did not sound the alarm when the foundation’s negative equity came to light. The letter furthermore mentions “irregular payments,” a reference to the fact that Tuitt paid himself in 2021 without withholding wage taxes. The foundation put the possible damages at 148,222 guilders ($82,806).

FLDP noted that the results had been structurally negative since Tuitt’s appointment, that the debt to country Aruba was around 17 million guilders (close to $9.5 million) and that there were no annual financial accounts for the years 2014-2019. On November 9, 2021, the board sent Tuitt a letter with twelve questions but his answers were “incomplete, misleading and incorrect.”

The annual account for 2019 reported negative equity of 5.9 million guilders (almost $3.3 million). Without further explanation, Tuitt added that this had no consequences for the foundations continuity.

In the draft annual account for 2020 Tuitt reported a positive net result of 964,525 guilders ($538,841), but the supervisory board found that subsidies worth 2 million guilders ($1.1 million) to SSA (Foundation Sport Subsidy Aruba) has not been included. Tuitt’s explanation: I did not include it because I disagreed with it. Subsidizing SSA is FLDP’s main objective.

That Tuitt seemed to be commandeering a sinking ship also appears from a letter the supervisory board sent him on April 7, 2022. It had found negative equity to be a bit over 6 million guilders and  solvency at -21 percent while the bank expected this to be +30 percent. “This could put our permit at risk with a request to the Games of Chance Authority,” the board wrote. It furthermore stated that, on an annual turnover of 40 million guilders ($22.3 million), only 4 million ($2.2 million) went to SSA and 23.5 percent to CBNA (therefore, $9.4 million).

And that was not all: over the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 FLDP did not withhold and paid wage taxes on Tuitt’s income, while the board notes that Tuitt “incorrectly paid himself untaxed compensation.”

The court established in its ruling that Tuitt is an employee, while Grant Thornton calculated that the foundation now owes 150,756 guilders ($82,221) in wage taxes.

Considering all aspects of the case, the court ruled: “There is an urgent reason for dismissal because of Tuitt’s actions and inactions. There is therefore no reason to allocate compensation.”

The court dissolved Tuitt’s contract per November 23, 2022, the day it took the decision.