SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Sunday said the Integrity Chamber either have to finally prove its worth or endure more questions about its relevancy on the country budget of St. Maarten.
The MP stressed that the Chamber should have already stepped forward unsolicited and investigated the tendering and awarding of garbage contracts and, even more so now, should make the damning Ombudsman report on the same issue an investigative priority.
Emmanuel has in the past called the Integrity Chamber “useless” and has not deviated from that opinion since “I have not seen any change or significant actions and contributions from the Chamber in this country.”
“From the issues at the airport, GEBE, the Harbour, TelEm, integrity questions in the administration and now the Ombudsman report on actions, or lack thereof, that created the atmosphere for corruption, the Integrity Chamber has been quiet when it should have been more active. If the Chamber is going to sit back and only focus on matters of less significance which other entities can perform, why should we allow it to take up over one million guilders on the budget?” Emmanuel asked.
He reminded that St. Maarten is the only country in the Kingdom with an Integrity Chamber, not even the Netherlands has such an entity. “It was forced on us as a condition and we are forced to pay for this entity that is doing nothing in areas that matter most,” he added.
The Integrity Chamber, Emmanuel argued, should be ready to support a High Council such as the Ombudsman with credible work on the same issues. He said the role of the ombudsman is to protect the people against violation of rights, abuse of powers, error, negligence, unfair decisions and maladministration and to improve public administration while making the government's actions more open and its administration more accountable to the public.
“As such integrity in these aspects plays an important role and systemic reports/findings by the Integrity Chamber should actually precede the Ombudsman if they are doing the job they are supposed to do,” Emmanuel said.
He continued: “Beyond the question of good corporate governance, where government integrity is low, so are expectations for the corporate and regular citizenry to do the right thing. We are seeing so many actions and non-actions by the current government that can be called mis-use and abuse of the powers and resources entrusted to them.
“Additional related ethical standards that the government is expected to uphold include transparency, accountability, efficiency and competence. The regular jo-blow on the road can see government's blatant transgressions but the Integrity Chamber apparently cannot," MP Emmanuel said.
He called publicly on the Integrity Chamber to disclose whether or not it would add the findings of the Ombudsman report to its investigative priorities and inform the public what else it is working on. Should the Chamber not improve or increase it activities, the MP opined that the personnel that currently make up the Chamber might better serve in the civil service of government while others might be better served back in the Netherlands.
“If there is one thing we do not have a shortage of on St. Maarten are entities that almost perform the same or similar duties. The argument was that the Integrity Chamber would be different. To date, we can’t see how because they are doing the same as the Advisory Council, SER and others. The Integrity Chamber is in a sea of government integrity breaches and has decided, apparently, to just float, do nothing and take up space on the budget. So we might have to look at that in the next budget debate and move that money to community priorities to be better spent,” he concluded.