PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — During the Central Committee meeting held on Monday regarding the financial status of NV GEBE attended by the Minister of VROMI, Egbert Doran, MP Buncamper, leader of the USP faction in parliament, fired off a number of questions to the minister. The questions posed by MP Buncamper have been asked in previous meetings held in June and remain unanswered.
MP Buncamper expressed his surprise at the high cost of electricity for streetlights, while the streetlights maintenance contract calls for LED lights, which should easily reduce the cost of electricity by 50%, and wonders why this reduction is not reflected in the budget. The MP asked the Minister if he is aware that all streetlights have to be LED and that they are already paid for since the first streetlight contract was signed? Some 2000 lights have already been replaced, yet the minister’s previous response alluded to the fact that this still has to be reviewed and all lights are yet to be replaced. The issue here is the loss in the cost of electricity, which is GEBE’s responsibility to bare due to their noncompliance with the contract. The MP inquired if this can be reviewed and the savings for government be corrected?
MP Buncamper also questioned the water pricing policy for schools. The cost of water weighs heavily on the schools’ budget due to the fuel clause. “With oil exceeding $80 a barrel, the fuel clause is expected to sky-rocket in the not-too-distant future” the MP noted and inquired about government’s involvement and authority with the fuel clause calculation, which has a number of components that make it difficult to understand.
The TEATT minister’s involvement also came into question, while the MP inquired if there is a maximum profit set for government owned companies seeing that they have a concession and the monopoly. The MP further questioned if the relief for senior citizens given by GEBE will continue as it was in the past.
MP Buncamper went on to question what government policies are in regards to the water production, the investment in the distribution network and the management of the water distribution. The MP requested a copy of the agreement being used. “How does the approval of maintenance to the network take place? Are the tender procedures in compliance with government regulations?” the MP asked.
He also questioned government’s net profit on the water distribution taking leakages and other water loss into account and who is responsible for the loss due to leaks?
“What is government’s plan or policy pertaining to the National Energy law of 2013 with regards to how we use and produce energy on this island? Are the fuel prices not a clear signal of what is happening and is still to come?” MP Buncamper asked.
The MP went on to question government’s position regarding government owned companies adhering to the laws of the country, particularly when it pertains to the pension age versus the CLA and the new SZV wage limit in 2022 for sickness insurance coverage.
MP Buncamper inquired if all government owned companies have to follow the same path as PJIAE where the corporate government council is concerned? Will they be subjected to the corporate governance council approval for the implementation of policies and agreements?
Is it a requirement by law that proposed board members must fit a specific profile to fill a board position? Are all new board members presently fulfilling the criteria?
Does GEBE have rules and regulations regarding leaking of information to the media by its supervisory board members, management team, employees or affiliated companies?
What are the shareholders roles in the future development of NV GEBE? Taking into account the reliability of the engine park and the lack of training of personnel for the engine park maintenance.
Is GEBE complying with article 14 of their electricity concession of 2015, which states that GEBE must have 2% of their grid capacity capable produced by alternative energy? 6 years has passed since the concession was signed!
Passing on the fuel clause to consumers needs to be addressed otherwise the cost of doing business will not be sustainable in this country. What is the shareholders plan for this? After all, they granted the concession and together with the GEBE management they made the price structure in May 2011.
The MP continued to delve into the financial benefits, if any, in maintaining the status quo at GEBE compared to moving on to alternative energy? “Saba has already started the move to solar energy. Are there any plans for St. Maarten to follow suite? If so, when?”, the minister asked, and went on to say that “The Council of Ministers received a presentation from a local fuel company on the island to go into various alternative sources of energy and in particular solar energy. What is the government’s position to this option and how will NV GEBE be incorporated in this project/program?”, the minister queried.
“The waste to energy plan proposed by the World Bank is extremely costly. Will alternative options be sought for such and will the funds made available by the World Bank be available to carry this out?
Finally, the MP questioned what government’s monthly income is from the sale of water, and how much does government invest in the water distribution network? And, who approved these investments?