PHILIPSBURG – In Wednesday’s, June 21, Council of Ministers Press Briefing Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman addressed the criticism levied against his Ministry in the Audit Chamber 2016 report.
Answering a question on how the Audit Chamber seriously criticized his Ministry and him personally, for not cooperating more with an audit and to the national expenditure, and not reacting to an advice issued in February, Minister Boasman acknowledged reading, “the article in a newspaper, and was a bit surprised by it because, first of all it’s normally not the style of the Audit Chamber or any High Council to go to the media and publicize issues that they themselves say is confidential. So we called them to find out exactly what was going on. And there is a clarification to it.”
“First, the Audit Chamber said we’re not responsible for what is printed in newspapers. Secondly, the audit is an audit that took place on the personnel costs of the year 2015. And matching the actual cost with what was budgeted, it would seem that it was way out of sync, from what was budgeted to what was actually spent, and how the processes took place. There are a lot of issues within the Ministry as indicated in the report that needed clarification,” Minister Boasman informed.
The report went on to speak about the efforts that the Audit Chamber made during 2016, to get the involvement of both the Ministry and the Minister in responding or providing the necessary information for the Audit Chamber to do its job.
“The Audit Chamber was not too happy with the responses and felt that the lack of providing the information hampered them from executing their duties. Therefore the statement about hampering the authority of the Audit Chamber, which I would agree with, because the Audit Chamber has a clear task and Ministries are obliged to comply, and that was the period 2016,” the Minister explained.
“In 2017, on that particular issue, because the Audit Chamber did not get the information that they wanted from the Ministry, they then went on to a different process. Instead of providing a report, they provided an advice to which no response was required. In that sense it was not a request from the Audit Chamber to provide information or anything like that,” Minister Boasman further explained.
“We checked, we saw nothing came in from the Audit Chamber. In February 2017, we asked the Audit Chamber if they can send to us whatever was sent out back then and please indicate where it was delivered, or to whom it was delivered. Apparently, in March, indeed that advice was sent out and it was delivered at Illidge Road, and there was some miscommunication. Previously, the Minister sat at Illidge Road, and now I’m in the main building, so apparently that created some sort of confusion where they could not reach me on time,” the Minister continued.
“We had other reports, we had other items from the Audit Chamber that did come to us that we responded to. We looked at that report. Everything that is in the advice, some of the things that we have been tackling since January, since I’ve taken office and they are not all issues that the general public is aware of or may even be interested in,” he said.
The Minister cited the “one example of the Miss Lalie Center,” and pointed out that the Miss Lalie Center officially doesn’t exist. “Miss Lalie Center is a project that was instituted for a period of two years. That two-year period ended in December of last year. The project life has been extended. With all of the confusion that comes along with that, is for instance the personnel of Miss Lalie Center, who are part of the big personnel problems at the Ministry. Their situations cannot be really regulated because of that situation. The budget in the center is not budgeted as a department, it is budgeted as a subsidy,” Minister Boasman informed.
“We can go on. When I took office I said that the intention is not to look back and see what happened, all of whatever ways to fix it and that’s what I’m doing. I don’t have time and energy to point fingers and say who did what, did that bad. I have to fix those problems, and that’s why I’m fixing those problems, and some of those things I did not address in public because some of them, especially personnel matters, I believe should be solved internally,” the Minister said.
“I’ve said on different occasions I can understand the frustration of some of the personnel and why they are going to the courts…I have assured the Audit Chamber that the Ministry of Justice respects the task of the Audit Chamber, and that in any way under this Minister that we will cooperate fully with the Audit Chamber. They have sent us whatever information was pending and we have already started responding to those,” the Minister continued.
“We had a similar situation with the Ombudsman where the report was not positive because no responses were given. We have corrected that situation and that’s how we move on. The responsibility is now mine and we are dealing with it and I would not shy away from it,” Minister Boasman stated.
The Minister also gave some information on the renovation process for the prison. He gave an approximate figure of NAf. 250,000 to be spent on prison repairs that would include mending fencing, corridors, enhancing security, and combining two separate buildings, to enhance the security, and to store equipment like metal detectors.
According to the Minister, there’s financing also to start work on the Simpson Bay Prison Detention center. “So as we get to start on those projects, then I would provide more detailed information on them, but the funds are now available to be able to start those projects,” Minister Boasman concluded.