Ministry gets vehicles, to intensify inspections

PHILIPSBURG–The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA received fourteen new vehicles as part of the emergency aid the Netherlands offered to St. Maarten post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Seven of the vehicles were handed over to the Ministry on Friday, February 16. The Ministry’s daily operations were heavily affected as a result of the hurricanes, in some cases put to a standstill by the lack of vehicles, as almost all of its vehicles were severely damaged.

The request for vehicles was a direct request from the Ministry to the Netherlands as part of the crisis emergency aid. According to a press release, the vehicles form a critical part of operations; several tasks such as inspections of restaurants, medical and pharmaceutical service providers, job sites and much more can now be intensified by the Ministry’s staff.

The release said vehicles and other essential products and materials have been challenging to source within a short time frame after the hurricanes, hence the vehicles are being received now. The vehicles received have specific requirements for the wide range of work that is to be carried out by the staff and the terrain conditions on the island. This was important to ensure that the ministry can make the best use of the vehicles and for a long period of time. The vehicles were sourced by local dealerships.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations BZK of the Netherlands it is my honour to be able to hand over these much-needed vehicles to VSA. Throughout the emergency, recovery and rebuilding process the Netherlands has been a reliable and beneficial partner for St. Maarten and its people. This is another example of the benefits of cooperation and partnership in our Kingdom,” Head of the Dutch Representation office in St Maarten Chris Johnson said during the handover.

All vehicles will be tagged with the United Telecommunications Services (UTS) secure tracking device made available by UTS. The tracking devices offer digital fleet monitoring and management options that will allow for a greater measure of supervision and accountability by the Ministry. Features include driver behaviour alerts such as speeding; idling time, etc.; overview of past trips; and geo-fencing, amongst others.

The features will enable the Ministry to be more effective in carrying out its duties, reporting and cost containment. The work carried out can be monitored by management and staff to ensure accountability in the use of government vehicles.

“I am happy that we have received these vehicles in what was our darkest hour of need. Post-Irma, our entire team was hands-on within the community, with extremely limited resources, to do what was necessary to not only assess but assist where we are required to do so,” VSA Minister Emil Lee said.

“The damage caused by the hurricanes caused a ripple effect which we all are still feeling. We are happy that slowly, but surely, we too here at the Ministry can get back to work as usual. These vehicles will surely allow us to do so. Kingdom Affairs was very quick and collaborative in response to our request for aid and I am appreciative of this. Our staff can now go out and carry out their tasks effectively, knowing that they are safe and have the tools to manage their operations in an accountable manner.”

The VSA Ministry consists of several departments that make use of Government vehicles: the Inspectorate, Collective Prevention Services, Department of Social Affairs and Labour, Community Development and the Ambulance Department of which the new vehicles are pending arrival.

Collectively these departments carry out health inspections, job-site inspections, occupational safety inspections, bottled water testing, community outreach programmes, disease prevention controls, rat and mosquito vector controls, community help desk programmes, preventive health and response, youth vaccination, labour mediation services and more.

Source: The Daily Herald