Exercise in futility continues at PJIA

Dear Editor,
I would like to reiterate the concerns of the United St. Maarten Party expressed back in February of this year in an article titled “Something is drastically afoul at PJIA [Princess Juliana International Airport – Ed.]”.
The United St. Maarten Party leader Mrs. Pamela Gordon-Carty had also called for a forensic audit into the airport operations, finances and management, around the same time. To date none has been completed or initiated.
The board at the time called management “a failure for leaving St. Maarten without the full services of its main economical port for almost five years.” They also questioned airport management and the NRPB [National Recovery Program Bureau] announcement of cost increases, which raised the reconstruction cost from US $90 million to $150 million.
Today we see the possibility of additional cost being incurred with the plans to rent tents and move operations outside the building. We are regressing with no mentions of accountability, new timelines or penalties for the setback.
The silence from those responsible for accountability is deafening. Who signs off on the construction progress reports? What is the Supervisory Board’s (PJIAE) function with regard to the reconstruction? What instructions or queries has the Holding Board (PJIAH) dispatched to the Supervisory Board (PJIAE)?
The public announcements were very forthcoming during the handling of the Mikey Hyman fiasco – why are the boards so silent now?
The original tender was awarded to Ballast Nedam for the sum of $90 million. After the bid was accepted, things such as contingency, third party work and insurance were some of the vague justifications given for projected cost overruns that ballooned the reconstruction cost to $150 million. Those justifications satisfied the World Bank’s strict requirements and processes at the time and additional financing was approved without the need for a new tender.
The NRPB is also in a position to shed some light on the latest developments at the airport since they should have been the recipients of progress reports on behalf of the World Bank. They would also know whether the current situation falls under the umbrella of the cost overruns financed by the World Bank, after the tender was won, because they scrutinised and processed the application on behalf of PJIA and Ballast Nedam for the additional financing.
It’s going to be interesting to see if all the red tape processes, checks and balances championed by NRPB on behalf of the World Bank hold any water.
The slow rate of execution for the building and rebuilding of homes, our sports facilities and schools, according to the NRPB, stems from World Bank processes, which many at the NRPB see as a great opportunity for us to learn how to apply effective processes that prevent corruption and nepotism. Meanwhile, two companies awarded major financing for reconstruction projects, namely Ballast Nedam and/or its parent company and Windward Roads, have convictions for bribery. Over $500 million was given to the World Bank for reconstruction, of the hundreds of millions spent thus far, and with the multitude of local contractors that we have, zero local millionaires have been created.
The Supervisory Board of PJIA is also in a great position to shed some light on whether or not the expected cost overruns are covered in the financing of the previously approved contingency since its newest member Anisa Dijkhoffz is a project manager at NRPB. The Holding Board (PJIAH) should have been informed by the Supervisory Board (PJIAE) well in advance of the delays and new plans of approach at PJIA. Government’s letter to PJIAE does not absolve the Holding Board (PJIAH) of its responsibility to the shareholder, it incriminates it.
The dossier filled with alleged infractions at PJIA submitted to Parliament and the Council of Ministers by Mr. Mikey Hyman was never addressed, but he was fired as COO [chief operations officer] of PJIA for allegedly not following protocols.
The airport was originally constructed for $87 million and refurbishing it is now at $150 million and counting. Meanwhile PJIA employees are being divided on the issue of their cost-of-living adjustment. High season is upon us, and returning visitors are about to be greeted with a negative experience of long lines and frustration if all goes as planned.
The strategic response to this incubation of another failed board at a government-owned company is a letter written to the Supervisory Board (PJIAE) instead of the Holding Board (PJIAH) whose responsibility it is to report to government based on protocol and good corporate governance. A country’s best interest can never be properly safeguarded if organised confusion continues to take precedence over leadership.

Cecil Nicholas
President of the board of the United St. Maarten Party

The Daily Herald

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