PHILIPSBURG — On Wednesday, October 16, staff of the Department of Domain Affairs sent a letter to the Minister of VROMI, Christopher Wever, protesting his decision to relieve Raeyhon Peterson of his responsibilities as Acting Department Head of Domain Affairs as of Monday, October 14, 2019.
The letter, signed by two staff members of the Department of Domain Affairs, outlined how they were made aware of the minister’s decision via his memo dated Friday, October 11, 2019, regarding the responsibilities of the Acting Head of Domain Affairs. In the memo the minister stated his decision to relieve Peterson of his responsibilities as the Acting Head of the department. The memo also mentioned that staff of the department will subsequently report directly to the Secretary General, Louis Brown, and will no longer require the signature of Peterson on advices.
Despite the fact that the staff of the department of Domain Affairs fully respects the decision of the minister, they have stringent concerns which they elaborated on in their letter to minister Wever. StMaartenNews.com has a copy of this letter in its possession.
The letter explains how Peterson has indicated on multiple occasions that the department is severely understaffed, as a result of which, Domain Affairs has not been able to adequately process all items in its accumulated backlog due to the understaffing. The letter also stated that two former ministers were both informed of this situation and permitted the department of P&O to place ads to recruit more personnel in accordance with the formation plan of the Ministry of VROMI.
According to the function book of Domain Affairs, the department is supposed to function with a total of seven (7) staff members. The letter writers claim that this number is no where near enough to process all incoming requests the departments receives. According to the letter writers, the department is currently staffed with four members and will, as a result of the minister’s decision, lead to more pressure, making it difficult for them function and adequately process the accumulated backlog as well as their daily tasks. They implore the minister to understand “that working under such high pressure on a daily basis is not healthy for any human being.”
The letter writers also took issue with the fact that the minister decided that as Monday, October 14, all staff within the Department of Domain Affairs will report directly to the Secretary General, Louis Brown. In the letter the staff point out to the minister that the Secretary General (SG), according to the national ordinance Landsverordening Inrichting en Organisatie en Landsoverheid (LIOL), bears responsibility to ensure operational management, for the business operations and results of the divisions of VROMI. However, the department of Domain Affairs is not a division (‘afdeling’) but an executive organization (‘uitvoerende organisatie’), the responsibility of which falls under the competence of a Department Head. According to the staff, based on the LIOL the SG only has a role to play in the ‘uitvoerende organisatie’ when it comes to the policy aspect of the department, not the day to day management. The staff believes that the interference of the SG in issues pertaining to Domain Affairs will hinder the productivity of the deparment.
Furthermore, the staff outlined in their letter that according to the LIOL and the decree regulating the organization of VROMI there is a clear distinction between the function of Secretary General and that of the Department Head. The SG is mainly responsible for the management aspect of the department through a management agreement whereas the Department Head is responsible for the executive aspect of the department.
The impression the staff now have is that the SG will be filling both roles of managerial and executive functions, meaning no task division with regards to upcoming advices and therefore no segregation of tasks or internal control Consequently, there will be no checks and balances anymore, because according to the staff, based on the minister’s memo only the SG can now decide which cases to send up to the minister. The result is that advices of Domain Affairs will not be signed by 3 persons, the responsible Department Head, the Secretary General and the Minister. From now on, only the Secretary General and the Minister will be signing advices of the Department of Domain Affairs. The staff of the Department of Domain Affairs is of the opinion that this situation creates a severe conflict of interest by removing the checks and balance necessary to ensure fairness and due process.
In concluding the letter, the staff urged the minister to reconsider his decision to dismiss Peterson as Acting Head of Domain Affairs and his decision to require Domain Affairs to report directly to the Secretary General as this situation threatens the ability of Domain Affairs, the Ministry of VROMI and the Government to function with integrity.