Several Financial Statements still not available Corporate Governance Council Rejects candidates proposed by government.
PHILIPSBURG: --- Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs informed Parliament on Tuesday that the government of St. Maarten is currently working on taking the supervisory board of the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) to court in order to obtain two audit reports. Prime Minister Gumbs said that based on the information he received he understands that two investigations were conducted; one by BDO and one by KPMG, therefore he requested the audit reports that were submitted both by BDO and KMPG but SMHDF refused to turn over the information (audit reports) to government.
Prime Minister Gumbs said he made several requests to the supervisory board to turn over copies of the report in order for him to comply with Parliament request while government also need the reports.
The Prime Minister said only on Thursday the SMHDF informed him that they have decided not to turn over the information he is asking for. Prime Minister Gumbs further informed Parliament that so far government only got the 2012 financial statements from SMHDF. He said so far the financial reports for 2011, 2013 and 2014 is not ready therefore government could not obtain them.
Prime Minister Gumbs confirmed to Parliament that three members of the management team were suspended in December 2014 and on February 4th 2015 the Director Henry Lynch's contract was terminated with immediate effect. He said the other two workers were suspended indefinitely with pay.
Prime Minister Gumbs made clear that the actions taken by the then two-member board were legal and binding since provisions are made for that in the articles of incorporation of SMHDF. Gumbs pointed out two articles which allowed the two member board to take the actions they took in December 2014.
He also confirmed that the former Minister of VROMI Maurice Lake did contact SOAB by email when he learnt that the supervisory board commissioned SOAB to conduct a forensic investigation. He said that while the supervisory board has the right to commission such investigation the Minister did advise SOAB not to conduct the investigation because the decision was not taken by a full board consisting of five to seven members.
Prime Minister Gumbs said that the former Minister was in his right to offer an advice to SOAB which is what he did when he contacted SOAB by email.
Prime Minister Gumbs further explained that government has the right to appoint three of the five members of the supervisory board and since he took office the government of St. Maarten selected three candidates and sent their names to the Corporate Governance Council for vetting and all three of them were rejected. "The Corporate Governance Council sent back the names to government requesting more information." Prime Minister Gumbs further explained to Parliament that since there is a time frame for government to make the appointment and they did not make it the supervisory board of SMHDF then appointed three members to the board, they are Antonio Brown, Jason Peterson and Elmrio Jensen.
Member of Parliament William Marlin said when he was contacted and asked to agree to postpone the meeting he disagreed because if the Minister did his utmost to obtain the information and did not get it then he should inform parliament what government intend to do. Marlin said based on the information parliament was given on Tuesday it is clear that several issues were cleared up even though are some issues are still pending.
Marlin said he is happy to learn from the Prime Minister that the two member board acted legally when they took the decisions late last year, he said that this was necessary because the former Minister of VROMI made conflicting statements while in office. Marlin said it is now clear that the board was legal and they acted within their authority, and the measures taken by the former Minister does not hold any ground. Marlin said that he hope that the Minister will continue with the court case to obtain the information they requested because he wants to make clear that parliament does not want to sit on the seats of the SMHDF board but government invest millions in SMHDF and government has a right to know what is happening with its monies.
MP Christopher Emmanuel also expressed frustration with the current situation where government cannot obtain information from a foundation. He said it appears as though these foundations are runaway train. He said that he wants to know who is really responsible for housing in St. Maarten and at this point he wants to know if the Prime Minister does not think something is really wrong with the system. He also asked the Minister to provide the resignation letters that Keith Franca and Leo Chance submitted to SMHDF when they vacated their posts. He said based on media reports the former director is accused of things and he is of the opinion that someone on the board has to know. Emmanuel said that the former Minister Maurice Lake was also on the supervisory board of SMHDF and he also seems to know what was happening thus he stopped the forensic investigation. Emmanuel said he wants to know if the Minister does not think that the current board should be dissolved since they are not working with government. Prime Minister Gumbs when responding to the questions said that government simply cannot force any foundation to comply because of the agreement government made with these foundations years ago.
Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot Williams read out the statements made by the former Minister of VROMI when he stopped the forensic investigation. She said she believes that SOAB should also answer to government because they too made statements saying they were about to start the forensic investigation when they were stopped. MP Wescot Williams also asked the Minister if anyone from government met with the management of SMHDF to further discuss the matter at hand.
MP Leona Marlin Romeo in her statements said that she wants to know what the Minister could do to avoid the media from publishing certain documents. Marlin-Romeo said that based on the information that were published have tarnished the lives of at least three persons and that cannot be repaired. She asked the Minister to question the current management how a certain person who operates as a media outlet got into the manager's office and obtained the information. In her opening remarks MP Romeo Marlin said that she wished that she had the jobs the suspended workers have because they are not working and having a full salary. In the second round MP Romeo Marlin said she wanted to retract her statements because she knows how the media could twist things, especially the statements she made on the floor of parliament. Marlin Romeo said that she is waiting for the day to come when this case could be heard in court and all media houses would attend the court sessions and then bring out the facts regarding SMDHF. Prime Minister Gumbs in response to MP Marlin Romeo said that St. Maarten is not the only place where information is leaked. He said St. Maarten is now catching up with what is happening around the world. Furthermore, the Prime Minister said that he believes that the Government Building is bugged and he is even afaid to even speak to himself. " Sometimes I make statements and before I know it its on Facebook and other social media. What is happening right now is like people have crab mentality because they are pulling down each other everyday."
MP Maurice Lake used his time to say he does not have sources and when he has problems he discussed them internally, he further stated that he distributed the email correspondence he had with SOAB in December 2014. MP Lake said that people should not "lie" in the house of parliament but somehow he forgot to mention the lesson he learnt for lying to parliament while being a Minister and he was faced with a motion of non-confidence.
MP Sarah Wescot WIlliams at the end of the meeting as the chair of parliament to withdraw the document MP Maurice Lake had booked in and even distributed to Members of Parliament. However, no other Member of Parliament supported MP Wescot Williams request to withdraw the document that Parliament booked in twice.