Published On: Sat, Sep 30th, 2023

Integrity Chamber advises against payment of travel expenses by third parties

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PHILIPSBURG — Expenses for travel and accommodation for ministers and civil servants should be paid by the government, the Integrity Chamber states in an advice to the Council of Ministers.

Related link: Advice on Travel and Accommodation Paid by Third Parties

The CoM asked for an advice on this issue on May 17, and the Integrity Chamber provided it to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs on June 29.

The question the CoM put to the Integrity Chamber was “whether travel and/or accommodation expenses paid for by third parties for ministers and civil servants is acceptable.”

The advice first of all points to article 41 of the Constitution. This article contains the oath ministers swear to uphold when they take office. Part of this text is: “I promise not to take any promise or any gift from anybody.”

The advice nevertheless states that there are no specific rules in place that give guidance on how to deal with travel and/or accommodation expenses that are paid for by third parties. It furthermore points out: “Anything of monetary value received from a third party can be considered a gift.”

That should have been the end of the story, but the Integrity Chamber took the opportunity to point out the downside of accepting free offers: they could compromise the independence of ministers and civil servants, they could damage public trust in the government and they could potentially result in conflicts of interest.

The Integrity Chamber’s advice is clear: “Accepting expenses paid for by third parties must not be permitted.” Deviation from this rule should be subject to “careful consideration.”

Attending events at the expense of a third party should be subjected to a vetting process that examines the intent of the third party, the possibility of integrity risks and the benefits for St. Maarten. Lastly, the question has to be answered whether paid expenses are in line with government-rules.

According to the Integrity Chamber-advice there are two situations whereby a deviation from accepting payment by third parties is a no-no. Officials traveling to perform government-mandated tasks must do so at the expense of the government. The same goes for attending vendor or promotion activities meant to promote and establish business relationships with a brand, product or service.

The Integrity Chamber advises the government to establish written guidelines that include sanctions for violations. It furthermore urges the government to adopt the ministerial gift policy. So far, this policy has not been implemented yet.

“All offers for travel and accommodation by third parties should be registered in a public registry,” the advice states, adding that, in general, these expenses must be paid for by the government.

The deadline for a motivated response to the advice was August 24. It is unclear whether the Council of Ministers had submitted such a reaction.


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