PHILIPSBURG–Accountability regarding the public finances is essential for proper financial management, and delays in the preparation of financial statements are unfortunate, said the General Audit Chamber in the preamble to its 2017 Annual Report.
The situation is further unfortunate particularly considering the backlog in terms of the presentation of the draft ordinances for adoption of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 financial statements.
The Audit Chamber said it knows government services and functions were severely impacted by the hurricanes in September 2017. However, the failure of government to present the Financial Statement 2016 is “disappointing.”
By law, the financial statement is expected to be drafted by September 1 of the year following that to which it relates. “In other words, drafting of the financial statement should have been in the final stages prior to Hurricane Irma’s impact. Moreover, the Minister of Finance had previously indicated that the process was on schedule,” said the Audit Chamber.
Following Irma on September 6, the date for presentation of the financial statement was pushed back several times. The Audit Chamber’s preparatory work regarding the review of the financial statement, including an investigation of government’s public bidding policy, was completed in 2017.
At the time of the drafting of the Audit Chamber’s Annual Report, the Minister of Finance had indicated that the presentation of the 2016 Financial Statement would occur on September 1.
Aside from the review of government’s financial statements, the Audit Chamber conducted, amongst other things, a review of the confidential expenditures of the St. Maarten Security Service VDSM.
This audit was started in 2017. However, due to the events of September 2017, the execution is delayed. Part of the delay is also due to the extended discussions with the department regarding the conduct of the investigation.
The Audit Chamber announced its intentions in June and presented requests for information to VDSM. However, VDSM requested the development of a separate protocol to guide the work, because of its opinion regarding the sensitivity of the material.
A draft of this protocol, to be prepared by VDSM, is still pending. VDSM has indicated that the department’s priorities have changed in the aftermath of the storm. The investigation is incomplete and will be revisited, said the Audit Chamber.
By law, the General Audit Chamber must present a report of its activities about the preceding year to both the Governor and Parliament prior to July 1 each year. Digital copies of the annual report 2017, in both the Dutch and English languages, were presented on Friday, June 22.
The annual report includes a review of the significant information arising from audits conducted in 2017, a description of its operations, and gives account for the use of the budget of fiscal year 2017.
Given the events of September 2017, the report also outlines the reconstruction efforts undertaken to secure the continuity of the institution’s operations. “The ability to turn adversity into opportunity, to rebuild that which is broken, and improve that which is deficient, is our lesson from 2017,” said the Chamber.
The report is published in both English and Dutch and is available on the General Audit Chamber’s website www.arsxm.org .