PHILIPSBURG–Saving Government money is the reason former Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher gave for plans to move St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) from its current location to the Leah Building on Cannegieter Street.
The move comes with an outfitting cost of US $290,000, set to be footed by Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) via the withholding of its quarterly dues to the cash-strapped Government.
Arrindell-Doncher’s statement comes after Member of Parliament Tamara Leonard (United People’s party) queried the diversion of funds. The former minister said Leonard, had “got ahead of herself” with her query into the matter.
“As Minister, I sought to save Government money. STB moving into the BTP building would save Government over US $230,000. Would the MP prefer that we continue to pay US $239,000 a year?” Arrindell-Doncher asked.
Government currently pays some US $239,000 annually for eight units it occupies in the Krippa Building. STB occupies only two of these units.
Arrindell-Doncher pointed out that prior to Hurricane Irma and even before her tenure, efforts were underway to move all departments into Government-owned buildings, primarily the Government Administration Building on Pond Island. She said STB was one of the departments that cannot to fit into the Government Building.
“This is a cost-saving measure for Government and eliminates all of the rent Government was paying for its offices in various privately-owned buildings,” Arrindell-Doncher said, adding that BTP is a Government entity. BTP owns six of the seven floors in the Leah Building. The ground floor is privately owned.
Her other contention was that she had made no final decision on the move, budget or any financial obligations.
“I would think that the issue is now with the current Minister of TEATT [Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication – Ed.] who has to decide on the matter. The Minister can either move ahead or not, it’s up to him,” Arrindell-Doncher said. “But I challenge MP Leonard to show the people where and how monies were spent, since this is her claim. Please show the people where and how it was spent.”
Leonard, in her statement, said the amount of money was “set to be spent” for the fixing up of the building. She also queried the signing power of STB Head Rolando Brison to commit the pay-out. A letter outlining the payment plan was attached to a breakdown of the work to be carried out and corresponding cost. That attachment was signed by Brison above the words “confirmed Mr. Rolando Brison”.
In defence of Brison, Arrindell-Doncher said she had asked Brison to provide his advice on what it would take for the relocation. Brison drafted a budget of what he thought his department would need, discussed the budget with BTP Director Anthony Carty and “signed it to show it was discussed. Some information was obtained from the contractor who is already doing work in the building, as estimates. That was the end of Mr. Brison’s role,” she said.
“There has been no final decision and no money spent, and Brison has not signed off on anything committing Government to expense as Leonard erroneously and irresponsibly stated. It is clear that the MP does not understand what she is reading.”
Arrindell-Doncher said any Minister can ask any department head “to render an advice. But it remains exactly that, advice, not a commitment. For Leonard to state that Mr. Brison ‘signed off’ on funding is a deliberate attempt to confuse people and paint an untrue picture of what happened.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/73650-mellissa-stb-move-would-save-government-money