POND ISLAND–Get proper paperwork when contracted to provide goods and/or services to government to ensure proper payment, Finance Minister Michael Ferrier urged suppliers.
Speaking in the Council of Ministers’ Press Briefing on Wednesday, Ferrier said without proper paperwork, the risk is government thinks it owes a certain amount, but more is outstanding. There is also a risk for the supplier; no paperwork or incomplete paperwork can affect payments.
“If you are going to do business with government, make sure you do it in accordance with procedures that are expected … I am asking all suppliers on St. Maarten do not supply government with any service or any items without having proper papers that will guarantee you will get paid,” Ferrier said.
The proper process starts within government, he said. “It starts with our own organisation. Our employees [civil servants – Ed.] need to make sure they follow the correct procurement procedure; make sure they have the authority to be able make a purchase.”
Ferrier said government is confronted by a “phenomenon” of people approaching especially him saying: “Government owes me money and I can’t seem to get paid. Can you check on it?” Almost every time the query is looked into, it is found that “services were delivered to government without the proper procurement procedures having been followed.”
This situation means that “very often somebody who knows somebody would pick up the phone and would say ‘I need this and this’ and the supplier wanting to help would deliver the goods or services and of course present an invoice.” At that stage, the checks and balances kick in and the paper trail for the order is not there.
“It is bad for the supplier of goods and services to be put out of goods and services and not get paid for it. It creates a situation for government where we think we owe ‘X’ but we owe ‘X’ plus, because all over the place we are finding invoices that have not been paid,” Ferrier said.
Chiming in Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin said, “If it is proven” that a civil servant did not follow the correct procurement procedure, government will seek ways to hold the civil servant “personally responsible” for the outstanding payment.