PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — A.Th. Illidge Road – the main road in Dutch Quarter – has been in a deplorable state for many years, and the infamous “Dutch Quarter Sewage Project” has not made the situation any better.
This is the reason why Party for Progress (PFP) Members of Parliament (MPs) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson sent a letter to Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert J. Doran on Friday, April 22, 2022, seeking answers about the project’s disappointing results to date.
In August 2018, the Government of Sint Maarten and contractor Van Boekel Bouw and Infra B.V. signed a contract for works, which included installing sewage infrastructure and public street lights, as well as upgrading side roads.
The funding for this project was provided via a €4.2 million grant from the European Union’s 10th Economic Development Fund (EDF). According to press reports from 2016, the Government of Sint Maarten had to commit another €1.4 million as co-financing.
The work on the project started in August 2019, but the contractor stopped work less than 3 months later. According to the media, the company eventually took the Government of Sint Maarten to court for non-payment of invoices, in which it won approximately €370,000 in damages (with interest).
“It is clear to all that the work was never completed. Water still runs into the streets from all directions and the large potholes force drivers to bob and weave around them. The area that was designated to build the sewage treatment plant is overgrown with weeds and bush,” said MP Gumbs. “From media reports, we can guess at what took place, but we want transparent and factual answers from the VROMI Minister as to how this situation came to be.”
“From my knowledge of the workings of these kinds of projects as a former VROMI worker, it can be that our Government never bothered to secure the necessary co-financing. This means that the Government continued the project knowing that it would not have the money to pay. Whether this is bad intentions or gross incompetence on the part of Government, it is costing our people – first and foremost, the residents of Dutch Quarter who have to endure the foul-smelling consequences to the tax payers who would ultimately be paying for the damages,” added MP Peterson.
The questions forwarded to the VROMI Minister are:
- Can the Minister confirm that the contractor took the Government to court?
If yes, what was the reason provided by the contractor for taking the Government to court?
If yes, what was the verdict rendered by the court?
- Is it customary with funding from the EDF that the Government must participate with co-financing?
If yes, how much funding did the Government commit to its participation in this project?
- Was there additional work (“meer werken”) added to this project after the financing by the EDF and the presumed co-financing by the Government was approved?
If yes, please inform Parliament the details of the additional works.
If yes, please inform Parliament as to who approved the additional work: i.e., was it the Council of Ministers, the Minister of VROMI, the Secretary General of VROMI or a Department Head within the Ministry of VROMI?
- Has the EDF been informed that the project is not completed?
If not, why has the agency not been informed of the incomplete status of the project?
If yes, please provide Parliament with the reaction of the EDF about the update of the incomplete status of the Dutch Quarter Sewage Project.
- Does the Minister agree that non-completion of projects financed by the EDF, with presumed co-financing by Government, can create a negative image of the Government and Country Sint Maarten, and jeopardize future financing opportunities from the above-mentioned agency and other international funding agencies?
- How does the Minister intend to complete this project?
The PFP MPs urge Minister Doran to give priority attention to this much-needed project in the interest of the Dutch Quarter community.