PHILIPSBURG:— On February 12, 2018, the General Audit Chamber submitted its report: ‘Quick Scan: Crime Prevention Fund’ to Parliament. In this report , the Audit Chamber presents the findings of an investigation into the financial management of the Crime Prevention Fund. The Fund is managed by the Minister of Justice. The General Audit Chamber felt that a review of the Crime Prevention Fund was needed because the Fund’s income and expenditures were not correctly and completely accounted for in the 2015 Financial Statement of St. Maarten. Originally, it was the intention to conduct the Quick Scan of the Crime Prevention Fund using Government’s 2016 Financial Statement, however, this document is still not available. The 2016 Financial Statement was due in September 2017.
In conducting the Quick Scan, the General Audit Chamber sought to develop an overall impression of the size of the fund, its legal compliance, as well as its financial management. In addition, we identified areas in need of improvement. Our investigation reveals a lack of legal compliance, inadequate financial management, and a Minister of Justice who is not ‘in control’. As a result, there is a risk that the allocation of funds in 2016, did not occur in keeping with the objective of the Crime Prevention Fund. Failing to spend money from the Crime Prevention Fund according to the fund’s objectives, constitutes legal non-compliance, and is a violation of the relevant regulations.
Based on our conclusions, we recommend that the Minister prepares and submits an annual policy plan and financial statement in accordance with the National Ordinance Crime Prevention Fund. Furthermore, we recommend improving financial management by (among other things) developing proper procedures to ensure accountability. In addition, the Minister needs to ensure that the required quarterly written reports regarding the fund are drafted. These reports must clearly indicate the purpose of expenditures.
In accordance with our audit methodology and protocol, we provided the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Justice with the opportunity to react to our findings in November 2017. This opportunity is always provided before a report is published. It is unfortunate that the Secretary-General did not respond. The draft report was also sent to the Minister of Justice in December 2017. The Minister failed to respond within the time allotted to him. Because our methodology requires proper due diligence prior to publishing a report, we granted the Minister two deferments based on his request for more time. Ultimately, we received the Minister’s reaction a day after the due date, on January 11, 2018. The Minister has an apparatus of full-time staff within the ministry at his disposal. As such, the excuse that higher than normal work pressure caused the late response, is not persuasive.
In addition, we are concerned about the interest and commitment shown by the Minister and his Ministry given the report’s objective; improving the financial management of the Crime Prevention Fund, and ultimately the functioning of the Ministry. Our task is to research and investigate, to highlight areas for improvement and, where necessary, to make recommendations in the benefit of the country. Proper cooperation is an indispensable component for this process to be successful. The level of cooperation provided for this Quick Scan was not optimal. This is regrettable, particularly because the Minister publicly expressed his intention to fully cooperate with the General Audit Chamber (Today, June 22nd, 2017). The reality is, sadly, quite different. This is our second investigation at the Ministry of Justice where we have experienced poor cooperation. We remain hopeful that in the future, the Minister of Justice will provide the required level of cooperation.
The report ‘Quick Scan: Crime Prevention Fund’ is published in both English and Dutch and is available on the website of the General Audit Chamber (www.arsxm.org).
Source: St. Martin News Network http://www.smn-news.com/st-maarten-st-martin-news/28443-improvement-needed-at-crime-prevention-fund.html