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Minister of Justice Provides Update on Function Book Enactment, Police Law, and Financial Obligations to Justice Personnel.

annafunctionbook3002023PHILIPSBURG (DCOMM):---  Today, Friday, September 29, 2023, the Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, along with her dedicated team, aimed to provide a crucial status update to all justice personnel and the public regarding significant developments within the Ministry of Justice.

Unfortunately, due to the absence of a quorum at the scheduled Justice Committee of Parliament meeting, the presentation could not be delivered as intended. However, Minister Richardson remains committed to ensuring that vital information reaches the justice personnel promptly.

The History

After more than a decade without a completed Function Book for the Ministry of Justice, the current administration, under the leadership of Minister Richardson, successfully undertook and completed this crucial task. The Function Book followed the appropriate legislative process, culminating in its signing by former Governor His Excellency drs Eugene Holiday, and Minister Richardson on December 21, 2021.

Simultaneously, Richardson’s administration worked diligently to finalize an updated Police Law and new salary scales for the Sint Maarten Police Force, in collaboration with the Collective Consultation of Civil Servants' Unions (CCSU). This inclusive approach ensured that all relevant parties had a voice at the table.

The Present Status

The Ministry of Justice's Function Book awaits enactment by National Decree, which is contingent upon the upcoming budget amendment approval by the Parliament of Sint Maarten, scheduled for presentation by the Honorable Minister of Finance, Ardwell Irion, in the coming weeks.

Regarding the Police Law and new salary scales, these must be formalized alongside the Function Book of the Ministry of Justice, given the integral role of the Police Force within the Ministry. Extensive discussions were held with key stakeholders, including the Council of Ministers, the Council of Advice, and all unions.

In December 2022, an attempt to have the legislative package signed was made, but it became apparent that a complete debt calculation was required. The Ministry's Financial Controllers Department, led by Mrs. Saskia Thomas-Salomons, undertook a meticulous process to calculate retroactive payments and future financial obligations for over 760 active and inactive employees.

Two formal committees, the Placement Committee, and the Appeals Committee, were established to address staff placement within the new Function Book and handle objections, respectively. The process is ongoing, with provisions for potential changes and an additional 15% factor to account for inactive personnel.

The estimated total wage cost to the employer is NAF 38,772,609, with additional factors bringing the total budget required to NAF 44,588,500. Contributions to the pension (APS) and social premiums, as well as wage tax and net wages, have also been calculated.

Minister Richardson emphasized that the initial covenant agreement for a five-year repayment period was no longer feasible due to the significant debt. A new agreement was reached during meetings with unions in July 2023, extending the payment disbursement plan to 10 years. This plan includes provisions for vacation days and retired personnel of the Ministry.

Considering the annual disbursement plan, it is advised to reserve an estimated four (4) to six (6) million in retroactive payments over the period of seven (7) to 10 years.

The calculations and placement process will undergo review by SOAB, which will lead to a findings report at the end of the placement procedure, ensuring transparency and accuracy.

Minister Richardson reaffirms the administration's commitment to completing this essential task and awaits Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion's presentation of the upcoming budget amendment to move forward with the legislative package.

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