Published On: Thu, Jul 1st, 2021

Financial chaos

By Hilbert Haar

If you managed your household finances the way the government deals with its taxpayer-funded financial responsibilities you would probably have a hell of a row with your better half.

Related article: Audit Chamber presents devastating report about 2017 financial statements

The compliance report from the General Audit Chamber about the government’s 2017 financial statements makes this much clear: financial management is an even bigger mess than anyone could imagine. And the Parliament, the institution that is supposed to control the Government, lets it happen, year after year after year.

Just imagine that you spent, as the government did, 568 million guilders ($317.3 million) in a certain year. But when your wife asks you what the hell you did with that money you cannot give account for 442 million ($246.9) million) of it. Sounds like an excellent reason for the row of the century followed by a divorce and some serious jail time. Right?

But ever since St. Maarten became an autonomous country in the Kingdom on October 10, 2010, the management of the taxpayers’ money has been “inherently flawed” as the Audit Chamber phrases it. The Chamber cannot say for sure whether the income the government put on paper is really there and whether the reported expenditures are justified.

If you do something like that for ten years in a row (there is no reason to assume that the reports for 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 will present a different picture) you have to wonder why nobody has ever been able to make some significant improvements in this field.

The gentle nudges from financial supervisor Cft to improve the country’s financial management have so far fallen on deaf ears and the Audit Chamber has now exposed how bad the situation really is.

Hundreds of millions of guilders flow through the government system every year and one would think that the government (as the caretaker of the people’s business) and the parliament (as the guard dog of our fragile democracy) would be very careful with the way they spend the money that falls into their hands.

That the government does not have a grip on its civil service and in particular on those who are responsible to keep accurate accounts is one thing. Welcome to politics baby.

But that the parliament sits by and does nothing – year after year after year – is incomprehensible. Of course, hardly any politician is going to call for external help. God forbid that a foreigner gets a good look at the books and at the way the government is fleecing its people. Nobody is going to say that, based on results, we do not have qualified locals to do the job.

If we have them, good. But if we have them and we then look at the results, we have to conclude that our financial experts either don’t give a damn or that they are, for one reason or another, consistently looking the other way.

The question is now: who will finally stand up and make sure that the government does what it is supposed to do? Like, making sure that the money it spends does not disappear into an unidentified and meaningless black hole? Like, putting a stop to unbudgeted spending? How difficult can it be?

Or is it maybe so that this amorphous organization called government prefers the current financial chaos so that it can do whatever it wants?


Related links:
Audit Chamber presents devastating report about 2017 financial statements
Press release General Audit Chamber St. Maarten
Audit report Financial Statements 2017