Director of Secretariat Charna Pompier advised Members of Parliament (MPs) of the potential effects of the budget cut during a meeting of Parliament’s Central Committee on the Chamber’s 2020 Annual Report, and indicated that a separate meeting should be called to discuss this issue.
A majority in Parliament passed the amendment tabled by United People’s (UP) party MP Rolando Brison, to lower the NAf. 2.4 million annual grant received by the Integrity Chamber to the amount specified in the law. The amendment was intended to bring the Chamber’s budget more in line with what other High Councils of State receive in St. Maarten.
“All the activities of the Integrity Chamber are based on its budget and the Integrity Chamber was able to survive in the years that we did based on lower budget because of the pandemic and some of the reductions in operations that were due to the pandemic,” explained Pompier. “We were invited here to discuss the budget, but it would be remiss of me not to say that the amendment to the budget of the Integrity Chamber that was passed by Parliament is actually something that severely impacts the functions of the Integrity Chamber and its ability to execute its tasks, and we hope to be invited back to discuss that budget,” Pompier added.
In response to questions enquiring about the Chamber’s budget, Member Rafael Boasman alluded to Pompier’s request that a special meeting be called to discuss Parliament’s budget amendment cutting the budget. He said this is a very important issue and he suggested that the meeting, when called, be preferably held behind closed doors. Boasman said later that “the cuts would seriously affect the operations and we will be more than happy to elucidate on that in more detail [during a special meeting called on this issue – Ed.].”
Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel, however, is opposed to the amount of funds the Chamber receives. “I think it [the Integrity Chamber’s budget] should be cut some more, because then probably we will get some more work out of the Integrity Chamber,” said Emmanuel, who believes that the amount of work produced by the Chamber is paltry compared to that of other High Councils of State in St. Maarten that have a lower budget. “I am very, very serious,” he said, and queried exactly in what ways the Chamber’s operations would be affected by the budget cut.
Boasman indicated that the Chamber has done a significant amount of work. However, he said a lot of its work is not visible to the public and to Parliament. He said while the Chamber does not want to get into comparisons with other High Councils, MPs should take into consideration that the Integrity Chamber began its operations in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. Boasman does not think it is fair to compare the Integrity Chamber with other High Councils of State that have been in operation for 12 years. “It is a process that will take time,” he said.
Emmanuel said he would not be in not in favour of a closed-door meeting with the Integrity Chamber since the Chamber’s budget is paid from the taxes of the people, and whatever can be said in a closed-door meeting can be said publicly, as “the people have a right to know.”
The Integrity Chamber received NAf. 2.4 million annually, which is higher than that of other High Councils of State operating in the country, that receive between NAf. 1.5 and NAf. 2 million as is stipulated by law. Even with the amendment passed by Parliament, the Integrity Chamber will still be the highest paid High Council in the country with its lowered grant of NAf. 1,772,932. The Social Economic Council SER and Ombudsman receive NAf. 1.2 million; General Audit Chamber NAf. 1.6 million; Advisory Council NAf. 1.7 million and the Integrity Chamber 2.4 million. It was proposed that the funds saved from the lowering of the Integrity Chamber budget be allocated to strengthen the High Councils and advisory bodies with the Ombudsman, Advisory Council, General Audit Chamber, SER and the National Security Service all receiving an increase of up to NAf. 50,000 each.
During the meeting representatives of the Chamber presented the year report, highlighted the advice and recommendations completed to date, and provided a synopsis of what the Chamber’s plans are for this year.
Bron: Daily Herald