SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – In response to the news that Ballast Nedam has been awarded the contract for the airport reconstruction project, Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel has again questioned how Dutch firms with a criminal history continue to secure contracts on St. Maarten.
It is not the first time the MP has raised these concerns. Earlier this year he pointed out that Windward Roads, despite its guilty verdict in the Larimar investigation and defrauding the country, is still somehow managing to secure contracts from the government of St. Maarten, with the only penalty being a fine which the company is using to construct a small sewage system.
In the past he also questioned Ballast Nedam’s role in the roof repair at the airport. “Now we have the same company with shady history of bribing government officials being awarded another major contract on St. Maarten. The measuring stick seems to be very different for St. Maarten when it comes to Dutch companies as compared to local individuals and companies,” the MP said.
Ballast Nedam was investigated in the Netherlands for paying almost thirty million euros in bribes to government officials in Suriname and Saudi Arabia. The bribes to the tune of 17.5 million euros would have been written off as general project costs. Through legal procedures, the case was settled out of court.
Emmanuel said the fact that Ballast Nedam secured the airport contract at a time when the Dutch government and the Schiphol Group, supported by the local government places significant focus on good corporate governance is very noteworthy and in contradiction to the World Bank’s anti-corruption guidelines and sanctions framework.
These guidelines were outlined in the tender documents for the airport project as a letter of acceptance by all bidding companies. In part, the guidelines focuses and fraud and corruption which the World Bank breaks down as corrupt, fraudulent, collusive, coercive and obstructive practices. Breach of these guidelines could include a public declaration of ineligibility to be awarded or otherwise benefit from a bank-financed project.
The MP questioned if Ballast Nedam’s history was held against these standards in the tendering process, how could the company be awarded the reconstruction project and made to act as if its questionable history does not exist.
“Everyone wants to see the airport back up and running. But such actions continue to defeat the purpose that State Secretary Knops and the local government try to build their arguments on to gain a foothold at the airport. False purpose is always exposed when the truth comes out. You cannot preach integer corporate actions and good corporate governance but accept a company that settled million-dollar bribery charges,” MP Emmanuel said.
“Local companies, local people and St. Maarten as a country have been called all sorts of disparaging names for un-proven suspicions of wrong-doing. But in the case of these Dutch companies, you simply have to commit to construct sewage and it is business as usual. So allow me to use the same premise Knops builds his defending arguments on: In the name of good corporate governance, please provide an explanation how Ballast Nedam was cleared for the bidding process considering their criminally suspicious past and bribery settlement,” the MP concluded.