Kingdom Representative Mr. Gilbert Isabella, in accordance with the instruction of the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, hosted the second meeting of the Steering Committee on Thursday July 9th on St. Eustatius. The primary task of the Steering Committee is to prepare a plan of action to help strengthen the financial and administrative capacity of the Public Entity St. Eustatius. The meeting chaired by Mr. Isabella was attended by Island Governor and Island Secretary and advisors and the establishment of the expert group. Agenda points included; work method, gathering of information, Executive Council obligations that require the consent of the Minister, defining the CFT process and defining building blocks for the plan of action due September 1st and progress Multi-Year Plan.
The Commissioners in the Executive Council once again did not honor the invitation of the Kingdom Representative to attend the meeting of Steering Committee of which they form part per the instruction of the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. As a result they are missing the opportunity to have a direct influence and input in the plan of action.
Instead, on Wednesday July 8th, the Executive Council requested a separate meeting with my person as Chairman of the Steering Committee to discuss subjects that were already included on the agenda for the meeting of the Steering Committee. In response to their request for a separate meeting it was explained that there was no need for a separate meeting owing to the fact the two topics the Commissioners requested to meet on were already included on the agenda of the Steering Committee this morning. “Despite every effort on my part to involve the Commissioners, there is seemingly no willingness to form part of the Steering Committee. This is unfortunate as it is not in the best interest of Statia. To continue to work against this process will only place St. Eustatius in an awkward position. Each time the Commissioners do not attend the meetings of the Steering Committee also means precious time is lost. Given the present conditions the focus should be placed on doing what is most important for the island by removing all bottlenecks hampering the process to secure sound financial and administrative management”, says Isabella.
There are now points proposed for inclusion in the action plan. The Steering Committee is gathering in order to discuss the content of the plan of action for the administrative problems and to make further agreements with each other. “There are several parties that do understand the benefit of working together in order to prepare a plan of action. I can assure the community of Statia that there are no uncommon things proposed for inclusion in this plan. The proposed building blocks are meant to grant direct support to the Executive Council and the civil servants in the areas where this is needed most. The faster we can get to work, the sooner St. Eustatius will achieve a better level of financial and administrative management”, states Isabella.
In a separate process geared towards improving the financial management capacity of the Public Entity, the College for Financial Supervision (CFT), has proposed an expert group be established. The expert group will deal strictly with matters pertaining financial management and this should be included in the plan of action of the Steering Committee to be submitted to the Minister by September 1st. The Executive Council has been working with the CFT on the financial process but remains non-cooperative with regard to the administrative process that also needs to take place to guarantee improvement in the administrative functioning of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius. These two processes, the administrative and financial management, are linked to one another.
Meanwhile, on Friday July 3rd the Executive Council received a response to the protest letter from the Minister. In this letter the Minister explains that the notice of objection cannot be handled as submitted and affords the Executive Council until July 24th the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments before he is able to handle the notice of objection. Those are two separate processes were I as the Kingdom Representative could not interfere in. The Minister will respond to that notice of objection.
The question is: where do we go from here? The process to prepare and present a plan of action per September 1st will continue. I believe we do have the collective responsibility to see to it, that things are done in the best interests of the island and the people. The interest of the community of St. Eustatius should always remain central in this process. Once again the non-participation of the Commissioners in the Steering Committee meeting, despite the offer of direct support to be able to meet the CFT conditions, support for the Executive Council , and support for the civil service, does not contribute to a collective solution to the situation.
I will report the current state of affairs to the Minister.