PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The Board of the United St. Maarten Party stated on Friday that customer confidence in GEBE is none existent because statements being made by the Prime Minister and the Temporary Manager of GEBE are not in-sync.
“GEBE was hit by a cyber-attack on March 17th, 2022 and as of today September 2nd, 2022 there has been no clear explanation as to what steps have been taken or will be taken to ensure that the citizens of country St. Maarten have a proper understanding of what is taking place at their sole utility company,” said USP Board President Cecil Nicholas.
The board has been keeping a keen eye on the unfolding disaster at GEBE, and have yet to see any consumer confidence building measures being put in place by government or the management of GEBE other than the application of scare tactics that will negatively affect our most vulnerable citizens.
Customers have been complaining about a multitude of billing and payment issues exacerbated by threats of disconnection by GEBE which has never been rescinded. Prime Minister Jacobs state in parliament that government cannot directly influence GEBE operations and made her sentiments clear to GEBE that they should not proceed with any disconnections.
“Today Mr. Troy Washington was appointed as temporary manager by the SBOD to supposedly replace Miss Daniel after her elaborate interview yesterday, and Mr. Temmer returned to work with no official announcement by government or GEBE,” said Nicholas.
“What confidence are you instilling in the people you are supposed to represent and provide with utility services with these sorts of confusing decisions and statements. To add insult to injury the Prime Minister said at Wednesday’s press briefing that she will no longer be taking questions about GEBE,” continued Nicholas.
The tenure of this Jacob’s cabinet has been filled with controversial decisions and limited communication under the guise of information being classified and/or being too sensitive for public consumption.
“The media has even been blamed on several occasions for disseminating inside information out of context, said information is never put into context by the relevant authorities like in the case of GEBE,” lamented Nicholas.
It is clear that GEBE is experiencing liquidity issues, but to expect customers to just pay because you say so, without addressing the billing and payment reconciliation issues is bordering on dictatorship and void of accountability.
Management cannot expect GEBE to be exempt from the core principles of good customer service and transparent business practices simply because they are a government owned company in need of liquidity. Not to mention the tremendous pressure, stress and responsibility you are placing in the laps of your employees. The public needs to be presented with a concrete step by step plan of how their issues are going to be addressed, namely what considerations are going to be made on their behalf to soften the blow of 6 months’ worth of debt for utility consumption.
GEBE is a monopoly and major suppliers like Sol are well aware of this, we can only assume that their lack of confidence in GEBE emanates from the same lack of structured communication and the lack of an agreement to recoup money owed to GEBE by its customers. If 80% of GEBE income is derived from its utility customers, then a return to normalcy can never be achieved by the end of September as stated by Prime Minister Jacob today on the floor of parliament, without the presentation of a concrete plan by government or GEBE.
“The excuse of not wanting to panic the population, or labeling GEBE issues as classified/confidential only contributes to the further erosion of consumer confidence, and their willingness to pay. A crisis management team needs to be appointed and a concrete plan needs to presented to the public and the suppliers in order to change course of this disaster. The people of St. Maarten deserve better,” concluded Nicholas.