Emmanuel says airport board must go, challenges Integrity Chamber

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~ Reminds Lawrence he is accountable ~

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday called for the Supervisory Board of the Directors (SBOD) of the airport operating company (PJIAE) to be replaced and stressed that accounting firm BDO should be restricted from engaging in any inquiry or investigation into anything at the airport henceforth.

He also challenged the Integrity Chamber to get involved, put government’s money to work, take initiative “and finally do something for once.” The same challenge went out to the Corporate Governance Council and the Corporate Governance Implementation Team Commissioned by the Council of Ministers.

The MP’s statements came on the heels of various questions he posed about corporate governance issues at PJIA as well as possible overspending and misuse of airport funds during the recently held budget debate in Parliament.

He explained that while he awaits those official answers from government, it was brought to his attention that BDO, the same firm that recruited airport CEO Brian Mingo, was contracted to investigate Mingo’s spending practices using the company’s credit cards.

BDO, the MP continued, issued a report with eight recommendations in this regard. “What these recommendations are I am still waiting to get information on from government. But once again this seems to be hidden information because if there are recommendations then there are findings. More than likely these findings should confirm that the CEO mis-used airport money and abused his privileges,” the MP said.

“However, I wouldn’t be surprised if these recommendations were another cover-up to protect the airport CEO considering that BDO is the company that recruited him and his mis-deeds will reflect poorly upon them. I have also been made aware that BDO assisted the airport’s financial department with its internal audit. How is it possible that the Supervisory Board of Directors (SBOD) of the airport, and the holding board, authorized the same firm that recruited the CEO to conduct inquiries into allegations in which he is at the center?” The MP asked.

These actions, Emmanuel said, along with those outlined in the dossier by Michel Hyman that clearly identifies a SBOD that is not neutral and acting against good corporate governance, is enough to trigger a full blown inquiry into the entire airport. He said change must start with the SBOD which has shown in the same dossier its tendency to err on the side of Mingo instead of making neutral decisions based on good corporate governance and what’s best for the airport.

“The trio of BDO, Mingo and a SBOD that supports both is bad for PJIA. The government and its Prime Minister that led the fake charge of implementing good corporate governance at the airport managed to get rid of one man in the person of Dexter Doncher and overlooked all of the other actions by the CEO and SBOD that flies in the face of good corporate governance. But again, they hid pertinent information from Parliament and the public and has the airport in the mess it is in today,” MP Emmanuel said.

“I am also still waiting to hear from government about what kind of investigation or audit the holding board initiated after they heard from Michel Hyman. Was this because of what Hyman told them? If not what is it based on? It is unacceptable that after all this time the people of St. Maarten receive no answers about what is going on at the airport,” Emmanuel said.

He continued: “I have cautioned the Minister of TEATT Roger Lawrence on previous occasions to watch his back with the nastiness and cover-ups involved at the airport. But at the end of the day, he will eventually be held accountable. The Prime Minister already dodged questions in the budget debate and left him to carry the mess she created. If the Minister cannot get the answers he wants from airport management and boards, he needs to step it up and do what he must to get them. If that starts with the board then so be it, but act decisively,” Emmanuel concluded.