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Governor installs Integrity Inquiry Steering Committee

HARBOUR VIEW--Governor Eugene. B. Holiday installed a steering committee on Wednesday to advise him on and oversee the execution of an independent inquiry into the integrity and proper functioning of government based on his mandate from the Kingdom Decree of September 30.

The steering committee comprises former National Ombudsman of the Netherlands Marten Oosting as chairman, former Governor of the Netherlands Antilles Jaime Saleh and Notary Miguel Alexander. The members have extensive backgrounds and careers in law, public policy and good governance assessments across the kingdom, according to a press statement from the Governor's Cabinet.

The aim of the inquiry is to make recommendations that add value to the functioning of the public administration based on the findings from the assessment.

The integrity inquiry steering committee, supported by a professional secretariat, has been established to ensure an independent, impartial and effective process. The secretariat is comprised of two secretaries Peter Benschop and Sidney Ricardo, who have expertise in law, accountancy and public administration.

Oosting is also a former member of the Council of State of the Kingdom and a former professor in administrative law and public administration at the University of Groningen. Saleh is a former professor of constitutional law at the University of Utrecht and former Chief Justice of the Court of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Alexander is, among other things, a former Civil Law Notary in Curacao and a former member of the Council of Advice of the Netherlands Antilles.

The integrity inquiry steering committee will advise the governor on the terms of reference for the integrity investigation, the selection of an independent organization that will execute the inquiry, and on the findings and recommendations of the inquiry.

Following the governor's engagement of an organization to conduct the inquiry, the steering committee will be responsible for overseeing and directing the organization conducting the inquiry. In this regard it should be noted that it is the intention to engage an international accounting firm with experience and expertise in conducting integrity inquiries.

The purpose of the inquiry is threefold: to collect data and information for assessment based on integrity requirements in accordance with the rule of law in a democratic society, to report the findings from the assessment and finally to make recommendations that add value to the functioning of the public administration of St. Maarten.

The scope of the inquiry, in keeping with the provisions of the Kingdom Decree of September 30, covers the government and includes ministers, the civil servants in the ministries and state-owned companies. It focuses on vulnerable sectors such as prostitution, gambling and immigration as well as vulnerable activities such as permits for and the execution of infrastructural works and (other) large tenders. The organization executing the inquiry will handle all documents and information obtained during the inquiry prudently and confidentially, that includes taking all measures necessary to ensure the anonymity of the government officials and employees and all persons involved in the inquiry.

For completeness sake, the governor's press release stated that it should be noted that the inquiry is an integrity investigation and not a penal investigation. The inquiry is, as such, separate from any penal investigation being carried out by the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

The organization executing the inquiry will issue an interim progress report within three months and the final inquiry report of its findings and recommendations within six months of its engagement to the Governor. The process of the integrity inquiry will conclude with the presentation of the final report to the Kingdom Council of Ministers by Governor Holiday.

Further information and developments regarding the inquiry will be made public by the Governor through the Cabinet of the Governor.

Meanwhile, Government has recently appointed Justice Jacob Wit, who is Constitutional Court President and a member of the Caribbean Court of Justice, to head its independent Public Administration Integrity Committee which was established in November. Rieke Samson-Geerlings, a former Procurator-General of the Netherlands, will serve as deputy chairwoman.

The committee also consists of former Lord Mayor of Dordrecht Ronald Bandell, Advisory Council member/retired banker Jan Beaujon, senior lawyer/former Netherlands Antilles minister Richard Gibson Sr., and retired Lieutenant-General/former Commander of the Koninklijke Marechaussee Dick van Putten.

The committee has already commenced preparatory work and will hold its first meetings in St. Maarten from Monday, December 16, to Friday, December 20.

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