From left: PLP Island Council members Clyde van Putten, Rechelline Leerdam and Glenville Schmidt, Government Commissioner Alida Francis, interim registrar Hans Andeweg and Rachel Spanner-Carty (DP) at the start of Monday’s Island Council meeting. Council member Mercedes Lopes-Spanner (DP) attended the meeting via video conference.
ST. EUSTATIUS--A memorandum of understanding (MoU) concerning the return of the budget right was unanimously passed by the Island Council of St. Eustatius on Monday, April 24.
The return of the budget right to the Island Council is an important element in the return to democracy on Statia, which has been under administrative takeover by the government of the Netherlands since February 2018.
On Thursday, April 20, the Island and Executive Councils met with State Secretary for Home Affairs and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen about the budget right.
The return of responsibilities to the Island Council concerning the financial administration is outlined in the St. Eustatius Provisions Restoration Act of December 2022.
In a research report commissioned by State Secretary Van Huffelen, it was found that Statia has taken major steps in the improvement of financial management since 2018. At the same time, the report noted that many improvements are still needed regarding the administrative organisation and internal control. These improvements are considered essential for the legitimate financial management and proper functioning of the island.
The improvements will demand “a lot” from the public entity St. Eustatius, and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK will support Statia in this matter, Government Commissioner Alida Francis said.
In the MoU, State Secretary Van Huffelen and the Executive and Island Councils expressed their commitment to further the improvements as stated in the research report. This commitment is deemed essential for the transfer of the budget right, which includes obligations and responsibilities to be transferred to both the Executive and Island Councils.
A unanimous commitment was considered necessary by all stakeholders to give priority to implementation of the remaining improvements by the end of 2023, as described in the draft royal decree for phase 2.2.
The remaining improvements are necessary to give the steering group led by a project manager, time to do their work, supported by an external consultant.
The agreement ensures that priority is given by the Executive Council to the implementation of the remaining improvements and that sufficient financial resources are made available in accordance with the newly established work processes.
An audit committee is to monitor the progress and timeline on the improvement of the financial administration, next to the steering committee, endorsing the importance of sound financial management and approving the actions and decisions of the Island Council.
Now that the Island Council has agreed with the MoU, the next step is that State Secretary Van Huffelen will inform the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber, which will have two weeks to respond. After that, the agreement will be submitted to the king, which is expected to take place in May.
After the signing of the royal decree by King Willem-Alexander, the Executive and Island Councils are expected to continue their commitment concerning the improvement of financial management. The state secretary will support the public entity Statia in carrying out the agreement and has extended the special allowance for financial management of US $1.2 million until the end of 2024.