USP: Something is afoul at PJIA, says management and board are failures

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President of the board of the United St. Maarten Party (USP) Cecil Nicholas

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — President of the board of the Unite St. Maarten Party (USP) Cecil Nicholas said it is as “clear as day” that something is afoul with the ongoing re-construction project of the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). Nicholas echoed his party leader’s call for a forensic audit into the airport operations, finances and management which he called a failure for leaving St. Maarten without the full services of its main economical port for almost five years.

It is inconceivable, Nicholas said, that after all these years, the airport and NRPB is announcing increase in costs of US $20 million for things that most people would say should have been in place from the beginning. “It raises one glaring question; what exactly is the amount in dollars for costs overrun and how exactly has the management of the airport been spending the money?” Nicholas asked.

Nicholas said it is past time that the public, through Parliament, gets to see the agreement between Schiphol International and PJIA so that a determination can be made that the country is not being fleeced. PJIA, he said, has too many ongoing issues that indicate that an extensive investigation is inevitable.

“It is impossible that cost overruns can happen without oversight of the Supervisory Board. How is it possible that a strict institution such as the World Bank is sitting back and allowing this? Where was the planning? Things such as contingency and third party work and insurance were mentioned as some of the reasons for cost overrun. Are we expected to just accept these vague explanations without questioning and/or asking for specifics? Nicholas asked?

He went on to stress that someone has to be held accountable for “this fiasco” and poor management by the management and Supervisory Board of the airport.

“The government cannot be absolved in this either, they allowed the country to be held hostage by former State Secretary Raymond Knops when he withheld liquidity support for alleged good corporate governance issues, without acting on the dossier received from COO Micheal Hyman.

How could the resignation of Mr. Dexter Doncher the then director of holding board be sufficient to address good corporate governance with that dossier in hand? Schiphol at the time also directly threaten the Prime Minister.with the support of Knops. The actions taken thereafter strengthened Schiphol position in the strategic alliance, but at what cost? The airport was constructed for $87 million, the refurbishing cost is now almost double that and counting. The Netherlands was once rife with construction scandals, not to mention the current construction over run issue that Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands now finds itself in with the same construction company selected for our multimillion dollar airport construction project, $150 million and counting. Good corporate governance, or construction scandal in the making. Nicholas said.

The USP President said the entire island is waiting on the results of the audit that was commissioned by the holding board, that should be wrapping up about now. But what kind of audit was it? Keep in mind that an airport that only needed re-constructing here and there is going to cost US $150 million and we don’t even know if the hemorrhaging will stop there by the time the project is complete. Literally nothing has been done at PJIA and we have cost overruns? So the obvious question is, what exactly has been spent and on what?” Nicholas said.

Nicholas also pointed out that while USP is in favour of a pre-clearance building the cost between a reported 60 and 90 million dollars, is also ludicrous. “For a single facility to cost almost as much as it took to build the entire airport itself is an exercise in futility Somebody has to properly explain that one to the people of St. Maarten with realistic projections and from trustworthy sources, especially after this ongoing debacle at PJIA,” Nicholas concluded.