Emmanuel: World Bank has no authority, says PJIA a confusion

MP Christopher Emmanuel


~ Calls for Mingo’s immediate dismissal ~

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The World Bank has no authority to dictate to government or the airport holding board anything regarding personnel management at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and its attempt to interfere ads to an ongoing scandal at PJIA. So says Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel, adding that if the World Bank feels so strongly about involving itself in these matters, then it should indeed keep its money and let the airport holding board do its job in securing funding for the reconstruction of the airport.

PJIA holding should be given the space to get the funding and would not have to put up with more threats over funding from the World Bank and, by extension, the Dutch,” Emmanuel stated. Emmanuel was responding to the World Bank’s statement on Tuesday that warned that the funding for the airport’s reconstruction is in jeopardy if government does not ensure adequate staffing of PJIAE.

“First of all, the terms of all the agreements signed with the World Bank does not give it any authority to have any say about personnel matters. Secondly, we have to question if this letter that The Daily Herald claims it has specifically mentions airport CEO Brian Mingo by name or that was just a headline by the Herald. If it did mention his name, are we to assume that money was granted because of an individual? Not for St. Maarten? Suppose Mingo drops dead tomorrow? It is a ludicrous statement for the World Bank to make,” Emmanuel said.

He said it has come to his attention that the Council of Ministers (COM) had requested a postponement of the airport holding board’s action to dismiss CEO Brian Mingo after Mingo refused to resign as per the request of the holding board. He said the COM wanted to receive full communication from the holding board that due process was followed. “I have learned that the COM has received this information and I recommend to the holding board to move ahead and dismiss Mingo post haste and the supervisory board should be next,” Emmanuel said.

MP Emmanuel said that the World Bank statements were ironic considering the person they are allegedly defending, can’t get a bidding exercise at the airport completed. He didn’t mince any words and stated that the airport is an ongoing scandal deserving of the attention of the prosecutor’s office and run by a cartel-like PJIA Supervisory Board (PJIAE). He added that he also as questions regarding the Royal Schiphol Group (RSG) and airport bondholders. He said he hopes Parliament convenes an urgent meeting on the airport soon to discuss this latest development and some other pressing matters at PJIA.

MP Emmanuel further pointed out that the cooperation agreement signed between PJIAE, PJIAH, Schiphol Nederland B.V. and the State of the Netherlands is about to expire and some parties are eager to renew. “Renew why? What has been accomplished in two years? We are in the same place we were two years ago with nothing happening at the airport with the same people from Schiphol on the board and a CFO from Schiphol as part of the managing team. Why should that agreement be renewed,” Emmanuel questioned.

“I’ve said it a million times. St. Maarten has the money and it can fund this reconstruction. The government has to let Airport Holding do its job and make it happen. Stop bending over backwards for the World Bank and the Dutch. We have seen APS recently loan US $16 million to the marine sector. We cut civil servants salaries and benefits to save a measly $15 million. It means that the government never spoke to APS. And I have said it over and over again. Sit with your companies and get it done. That APS loan is a slap in the face to civil servants,” Emmanuel said.

“The only thing the current board, its Dutch members and the CEO have secured is a complete fleecing of the airport,” he said.  To that end, the MP mentioned that the Dutch appointees at PJIA gets paid luxury amounts in euros and allegedly do not pay taxes on St. Maarten. “Mind you, they get paid with airport money, but pay no taxes? Let’s not even get into the CEO and what he has gotten from the supervisory board in addition to his regular compensation. Let’s not get into what the CEO requested from the holding board if the latter wanted him to resign. It has been a complete fleecing of PJIA while the same CEO tells the PJIA employees he has no money for them,” MP Emmanuel said.

In this context, he disclosed that the total cost for the airport project external consultants reportedly amount to over US $10 million per year, including US $237,000 for a Procurement Officer, US $234,000 for an Environmental Specialist and US $345,000 for remediation supervision. “Perks include round trip tickets, housing, car allowance and other allowances. Where is the solidarity with our people who are taking cuts to salaries while these people travel up and down and live tax free? This is just the tip of the ice berg. It is scandalous and I intend to question all of it,” the MP said.

The MP also raised issues of what he termed “blatant conflicts of interest” at the airport with the Royal Schiphol Group (RSG) appointees, supported and empowered by the supervisory board.  He explained that the RSG has an employee of RSG on the supervisory board. This same RSG employee votes and evaluates RSG contracts and evaluates other RSG employees or representatives at PJIA. Furthermore, the CFO of PJIA is also a RSG employee who evaluates RSG contracts with the supervisory board as well as RSG professionals and contractors attached to the airport. “So who exactly holds who accountable and critiques contracts and processes in the best interest of St. Maarten?” the MP asked.

He also pointed out that RSG has an employee and board member on the holding board of the airport who votes on the same RSG contracts mentioned before and has a say in the appointments of Managing Directors of PJIAE and supervisory board directors of PJIAE. “These people are all evaluating and appointing themselves and colleagues from Holland and ensuring they are paid tax-free with all the perks of housing ect. The money is not from RSG, the money is from PJIA.