Published On: Wed, Sep 26th, 2018

Fair and Transparent! Really?

StMaartenNews LettersDear Editor,

I am one of the few people that is knowledgeable in Dutch Taw law on this Island and I am also an experienced designer of software, especially for Tax administrations. I developed major tax systems in the Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles and Sint Maarten.

I would like to react to the [The Daily Herald’s, -Ed.] Editorial of September 26, 2018, in which plans to improve the tax department and making more procedures electronic for greater efficiency is being applauded.

In itself that is worth applauding, but the process is far from fair and transparent.

As a tax collector in the mid-nineties I helped improve the quality of the Receivers office and in early 2000 my company built the tax collection system that is used today.

Around 2010, like what is happening today, a Curacao company was brought into the tax department, without a bidding process, to advise the tax department on how to improve their processes and what software to use.  Coincidentally that company-built software for tax departments, particularly in the BES. What was the motivation? They were the only ones capable in this region. Really?

Do you know around that time all our tax information was in the BES islands? Are St. Maarten’s people comfortable knowing their information was available in the BES islands tax information system?

In 2011 that contract was halted, because solutions were being developed by myself, the IT department of Government and a local software development company for the Government as a whole, which were also useful for the tax department.

In this period around 2013, the Government Online portal was launched that included, mainly the Business License system and http://onlineservices.sintmaartengov.org/default.aspx,  that enables users to file their monthly taxes online and download tax forms.

Since 2014 we have had a few Ministers of Finance and each one had a preference for a certain foreign company to fix the problems in the tax department and the local initiative have been conveniently averted.

Now that is not transparent nor fair.

The company that built the tax solutions for Dutch St. Maarten, (which are not being used because of the preferences of the various Minsters of Finance), also built the tax system on French Saint Martin. After four audits on the product made locally, (without ever making the outcome known), the process has just been delayed for years until in 2017 a public bid was initiated. The outcome was not to the liking of the then Minister of Finance, so another stalling tactic started.

The latest solution of this Minister is, let’s bring in the BES because we can’t do it ourselves. Or better said, we don’t trust our own. Yet we complain the Dutch are taking over. NO, we are surrendering to them and we call it fair and transparent, its exactly the opposite. It’s a Trojan horse.

There is wheeling and dealing going on in the name of urgency to fix our tax system and administration, I have heard it all before, and it could have been fixed a long time ago. Do you wonder why the problem hasn’t been fixed before? For the same reason the dump can’t get addressed.

Dear Editor, please do some research and refrain from just scratching the surface with hollow remarks, but delve into what is really going on behind the scenes, or in plain sight.

Jean James