PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Silveria Jacobs has suspended the public tender “School Bus Transportation Service St. Maarten” until further notice.
According to a press release issued late on Friday, this was decided to ensure proper communication and collaboration between the ECYS Ministry, the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) and the School Bus Owners Association to be able to move forward in the best interest of all concerned with the regulation of the school busing service.
Earlier on Friday, the School Bus Owners Association had given Government an ultimatum to retract its intended policy by Wednesday coming or face a court injunction by the Association’s lawyer. The Association released a lengthy statement about its sentiments on the proposed policy set to go into effect for the new school year in August.
Government made the announcement last week Thursday, stating that the Ministry had the task of ensuring transportation service to and from school for students who would not be able to go to school without said service. The Ministry ensures transportation for extracurricular Government-approved trips and trips to and from the pool for swimming lessons. Approximately 2,000-plus students make use of this service on a daily basis.
Due to increasing cost to the amount of NAf. 5.4 million on a yearly basis and violent activities on school buses, the Ministry had to re-evaluate the busing system to ensure a more effective, efficient and sustainable system for students that also is in compliance with all the relevant ordinances and policies.
The statement from the Association, sent by its attorney Cindy Marica, reads: “Government is aware of the fact that client’s members have a transportation agreement with Government pertaining to the transportation of schoolchildren in the different districts to and from the different schools as well as other agreed-upon transportation routes. This agreement has been in effect since 1994 and client’s members have been providing services to Government based on this agreement for many years now.
” This decision to outsource the school bus transportation services and the intended pubic bidding process to attract new transportation agreements is not taken with due consideration of the principles of good corporate governance. This decision moreover constitutes a breach of parties’ long-term transportation agreements and Government in any event could not reasonably have decided to take this decision.
“Client should have at least been given a reasonable notice of termination of its members’ services with due consideration of a notice period, given the long-term duration of the agreements. The intended termination by the next school year is too short notice and sudden, and will have serious negative consequences for client’s members who could not have reasonably foreseen that Government would take such a drastic decision.”
In a three-page letter to Parliament and Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs and Prime Minister William Marlin, the Association’s attorney said, “By means of this letter client therefore requests Government to immediately cancel or suspend any and all actions and decisions that would or could in any way result in the termination of their services by the next school year, including but not limited to the bidding process.
“Government is furthermore requested and insofar as needed summoned to confirm by next week Wednesday, April 6, at 12:00 noon that the existing agreements with client’s members remain in full force and effect until legally terminated or until a proper arrangement is made with client or its members.
“In the event of failure of Government to comply with any of the above requests and/or summons, we will have no other choice than to initiate an injunction against country St. Maarten of which the cost will be for its account wholly. Client holds Government liable for any and all damages its members may suffer as a consequence of any further execution of its intention to outsource the school bus transportation services or termination of their services and client reserves the right to claim all these damages,”
Government had explained previously that the Ministry’s objective was to protect the future of students to insure effective use of available funds and limit the increasing cost of NAf. 6 million over the past five years.
The Ministry intends to make several critical investments with the funds that will become available due to the implementation of the new busing service, such as maintenance and backlog of public and subsidised schools for the next 10 years, structural replacement of inventory of schools, the start of the Educational Care Centre for students of public schools, and more support for teachers in schools to ensure a better quality of education
Source: The Daily Herald Govt. suspends school bus transportation bid