DH | Audit Chamber probes slow pace of St. Maarten recovery

Algemene Rekenkamer

THE HAGUE–The Dutch General Audit Chamber has decided to initiate an investigation into the progress, or rather the lack of it, of the St. Maarten reconstruction following last year’s hurricanes.

General Audit Chamber President Arno Visser informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament of the investigation per letter on Wednesday, in preparation for the handling of the 2019 Dutch government budget later this year.

“There are indications that that the reconstruction activities are taking place at a slow pace. That is why we recently started an investigation into the St. Maarten reconstruction. We especially want to check whether the assistance to St. Maarten is evolving fast enough and whether the Dutch funds meet the needs of the people,” stated Visser.

The Audit Chamber will carry out the investigation as a “focus investigation,” meaning that the Chamber will use a quicker procedure and will only publish facts, not conclusions and recommendations, in the report. Visser announced that the report will be ready late 2018.

The decision of the Audit Chamber to commence an investigation comes after several media reports, also in The Daily Herald, that the reconstruction process with the financing of the Dutch government through the Trust Fund is taking too long. The World Bank manages the Trust Fund. The Dutch government has reserved 550 million euros for St. Maarten’s recovery.

Visser noted that there was “little clarity” about the information the Dutch Parliament will receive about the results achieved in St. Maarten’s reconstruction. State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops has only indicated that the content and frequency of that information will connect with the World Bank’s standard work procedures and that he will inform the Second Chamber about the World Bank’s reports, he observed.

According to Visser, it was unclear whether the Second Chamber could measure, with this information, to what extent the formulated goals are being achieved and to what extent St. Maarten and the World Bank are complying with the preconditions set by The Hague – setting up the Integrity Chamber and strengthening border control.

In addition, the Trust Fund serves to finance projects for which there is no other realistic financing option. Also, the funds have to be spent correctly.

The Dutch government transferred the first tranche of 112 million euros to the Trust Fund in April, when an agreement was signed with the World Bank. In July, the Steering Group gave the green light for the spending of the first 55 million euros for, among other things, reconstructing public utility facilities and (government) buildings.

The Audit Chamber’s letter also addressed the financial supervision on all six Dutch Caribbean islands, carried out by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT. With the exception of Saba, not much progress has been made to structurally improve the islands’ financial management.

“So far, no positive trend is visible in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom. In order to effectively carry out an improvement plan, it is important to have a broad view of the current situation. That is why we have recommended they have a broad evaluation.”

That evaluation should not only focus on financial supervision and whether it is possible to carry out this supervision effectively, but also on the handling of the involved parties and the coordination with those parties, meaning the local governments. “Such an evaluation can serve as a basis for a joint improvement programme.”

Bron: Daily Herald

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