Published On: Tue, Aug 17th, 2021

Integrity Chamber turns down MP Emmanuel’s request for opinion about Ballast-Nedam

PHILIPSBURG — Integrity Chamber President Rian Vogels has informed independent parliamentarian Christophe Emmanuel that providing opinions “does not fall within the scope of its assigned tasks.” Emmanuel asked the Integrity Chamber on July 22 for an opinion about the tender for the reconstruction of the airport. In his letter Emmanuel referred to a bribery scandal the winner of the bid, Ballast-Nedam, was involved in more than a quarter of a century ago.

Related article: MP Emmanuel asks Integrity Chamber to provide opinion on Ballast Nedam selection

Emmanuel wanted to know whether awarding the airport reconstruction project to Ballast-Nedam “constitutes an act of failure by an administrative body or government entity to adhere to values and norms, legal requirements or other obligations through which the interest of society or the proper functioning of an administrative body or government entity could be harmed.”

He also wanted to know whether this is in conflict with the World Bank’s procurement policies.

However, the Integrity Chamber wrote to Emmanuel that it is not in the business of providing opinions. Vogels refers to the third paragraph of article 16 of the National Ordinance Integrity Chamber. This article states that the Chamber can be asked for an advice or a proposal. But such requests can only be made by the prime minister, the minister responsible for the topic, or parliament. Individual parliamentarians cannot make these requests.

While Emmanuel needed around 600 words to make his request, the Integrity Chamber needed just 265 words to show him the door. Furthermore, the Chamber provided its answer within three weeks.

Vogels points out that anyone is free to send a notice of suspected conduct to the Integrity Chamber. When there are sufficient grounds, the Chamber will conduct an investigation. Article 24 of the ordinance stipulates under which circumstances the Integrity Chamber is not obliged to conduct an investigation. The Chamber will for instance not investigate a situation that has already been settled by an irrevocable court ruling. Because Ballast-Nedam settled the bribery case all those years ago by paying a hefty fine there is no court ruling; but the matter is obviously water under the bridge.

Emmanuel was obviously not happy with the factual reaction from the Integrity Chamber. In yet another lengthy press release (this time the word count stops at 907) he labels the institution as a “completely useless entity that does not serve the best interest of St. Maarten.” He also announces that he wants to amend the national ordinance that governs the institution.

Basically, Emmanuel rails against the fact that individual parliamentarians cannot ask the Integrity Chamber for “a simple opinion or advice.” That request, the Chamber confirmed, could come from the president of parliament on behalf of the fifteen members of parliament.

Emmanuel states in his press release that the Chamber is “hiding behind the law” and that it “condones clear breaches of integrity.”

Furthermore, the MP describes Ballast-Nedam as “a company filled with integrity violations and a criminal settlement.” He also claims that awarding the contract to Ballast-Nedam is “in contradiction to the World Bank’s anti-corruption guidelines.”


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