~ Still running from relevant questions ~
PHILIPSBURG:--- Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Monday said that the Minister of VROMI on Monday admitted that garbage collection contracts were allotted to companies without the proper equipment, using an explanation that contradicts the same term of reference documents that guided the bidding process.
Emmanuel said the Minister, with a sense of obsession, has occupied himself recently with trying to spin the garbage contract fiasco into some sort of personal tit-for-tat instead of answering critical questions. His admission that he signed contracts with companies who he knew could not fulfill stipulations of their contracts, re-enforces the concerns that other bidding companies had about the legality and transparency of the entire bidding process.
During a radio interview on Monday, Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran said that it doesn’t make sense to require contractors to have heavy equipment for garbage removal before awarding them a contract for a garbage removal. The Terms of Reference dedicates more than 3 pages to exactly the kind of equipment that a contractor must have in place, how to maintain the equipment, the appearance of the equipment, size and dimensions, etc.
The Terms of Reference states verbatim: The collection and transport of the different waste categories will be executed in accordance with the tender requirements and with equipment. Not older than ten (10) years at the date of tender, in good state of maintenance, and suitable for the job.
Furthermore, Emmanuel pointed out, the usage of equipment, especially garbage trucks, ties directly into the amount of experience a contractor and his personnel have in operating all types of equipment on a daily basis. Experience, he noted, is part of the evaluation process before awarding garbage collection contracts.
“So all of the complaints from the public about the improper handling of garbage and unsuitable vehicles used to collect garbage can be laid at the feet of the Minister. He finally answered one of the many questions by admitting he signed contracts for companies that did not have adequate equipment. What sense does it make to award a contract to a company that cannot execute the work optimally? The banks are not accepting contracts as collateral, they accept hard assets,” Emmanuel said, adding that the public is paying for the Minister’s irresponsible action.
The MP said the Minister also doesn’t know his history when trying to tie the previous batch of garbage disposal contracts to his (Emmanuel) tenure as Minister. He explained that when he was sworn in as Minister on December 20, 2016, the garbage contracts had already been awarded by former Minister Angel Meyers. Emmanuel said when he started his tenure he never got involved unless necessary.
“And that necessity came about when the garbage haulers were making a mess of the place and I promptly saw to it that they were fined and lived up to their obligation and methods of collecting garbage,” Emmanuel said. “What has this Minister done with garbage still blowing everywhere? Nothing. And now after admitting he signed the contracts and basically said to contractors go pick up the garbage with whatever you have, how can he ever legally impose sanctions on those who do not live up to the contracts,” Emmanuel added.
Regarding Doran’s statement that Parliament has not called him in and as such must be in agreement with him, Emmanuel reminded the Minister that if he truly had any sense of responsibility towards the people he would have used another avenue that Parliament also affords: Request a meeting yourself to address public concerns.
“But he does not care. He seems more obsessed with trying to get me to play a game of tit-for-tat. The bidding companies and other members of the public came to me as an elected representative with concerns. I in turn as an MP used the avenue of public media to raise these concerns,” MP Emmanuel said.
He continued. “My job is to point out the inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and flaws of this government. I am addressing the people of St. Maarten via public media, just like he is lying and spinning via public media. It is my job to inform the people. My job is to hold government accountable and I have different means and ways to do so. Parliament’s platform is not only for MPs but ministers as well. The Minister doesn’t need an invitation to come to parliament and give a presentation on the garbage contracts or any presentation. I have asked the questions publicly thus informing the public.”
MP Emmanuel said the very next time the Minister goes on the radio he should address the many questions he is running from including, but not limited to: were the correct and final contract documents sent to the Governor? What information did the financial controller not have before signing off? Was the financial controller given a warning letter? How were the final scores calculated? Where did government find NAf2 million extra for garbage collection and why? Has one of the contracts been awarded to a close relative of a sitting MP or Minister? How many inquiries have been started at the Ombudsman about the awarding of contracts? Have other bidding companies sought other forms of legal actions against government? How many Ministers signed the final dossier sent to the governor?