Published On: Sat, Jul 9th, 2022

Stone-cold fact-finding

By Hilbert Haar

It took me some time straighten this out in my mind, but I think I’ve got it now.

Imagine that you manage an organization that needs to rent office space. Lots of office space. Let’s say, 47 different offices. You’re going to spend around $8 million a year on this venture, so this renting-business puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. If nothing else, you want to know that you are spending your money wisely. After all, as the manager of this project, you will be held accountable if something goes wrong. Right?

While you’re happily renting offices left, right and center, you suddenly get the visit of an auditor. He wants to make sure that you have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s.

The auditor discovers something odd. When you provide him with copies of the lease-agreements, he sees that quite some of them have not been signed. Other leases are still in the name of previous owners. And when the auditor asks you for contact information, you are unable to provide it for all lease-agreements.

Is that weird, or what? I mean, you are paying rent for these offices month after month, but you do not have the contact information for the party you are paying all this money to. If this happened in the private sector, you job would be toast. That’s for damn sure.

Unfortunately, the story I just told you has nothing to do with the private sector. This is about your government spending your money on 47 different offices. Eight million bucks!

The report that details all these shortcomings was produced by the General Audit Chamber. That’s a respectable organization, specialized in stone-cold fact-finding.

Related article: Audit Chamber doubts whether lowering rental costs is feasible

The Audit Chamber sends its reports to the government, but also to the parliament. The objective is of course that these esteemed decision makers do something with such reports.

But they don’t.

Remember the audit into the public tender for garbage collection? It contains enough questionable information to make the one responsible for it – it this case Minister Egbert Doran – wanting to get on the next plane to an undisclosed destination.

But that is not how things work in St. Maarten. One Member of Parliament (Rolando Brison) showed loud and clear during a public meeting of parliament how politicians deal with reports that expose the wrongdoings of one of their own. Brison said, and I paraphrase, that the Audit Chamber will always find something if it does an audit. So what?

Let’s ask the minister if he thinks that he could have done certain things better. That’s how wayward politicians are held accountable in our country.

No wonder the coalition of eight is nervously looking for additional support, just in case one of their own is going to support the motion of no confidence the Party for Progress will present if this meeting is ever reconvened.

So what is my conclusion here? Are politicians doing whatever they want? Yes sir, that is correct. Will there ever be consequences if they break their own laws? Answer: forget it.

All this brings to mind an observation that would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. If you did what your government does, you would be in prison.