Chris: Crookedness abound at PJIA, failed govt. created shameful mess

Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel


~ The people responsible for finances are quitting ~

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Following news that yet another airport CFO has resigned, Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel laments that “four CFO’s later, multiple construction excuses, unexplained delays, exorbitant spending by the CEO, fleecing of the trust fund money, and the egregious dismissal of the COO who only cared about the airport and its employees, has made St. Maarten and its once prestigious international airport the laughing stock of the Caribbean.” He added that that the airport re-construction project is the perfect example of a failed government mired in its own shameful mess and mired in crookedness.

The MP questioned how much longer the government of St. Maarten would permit “this disgrace” to exist before taking appropriate action. The “disgrace” he referred to was the “incompetence” of airport CEO Brian Mingo, his mismanagement of the airport re-construction project and the persistent lies he is either complicit in or has allowed airport general contractor Ballast Nedam to perpetuate on the people of St. Maarten.

The MP’s comments were prompted on Friday after reports surfaced on Friday that airport CFO Ben ven der Klift has resigned his position. If true, Van der Klift will be the fourth CFO under Mingo to have resigned. First came Ravi Daryanani after a short stint, then Gerben Stavast, then Leendert (Leo) van der Meiden and now Van der Klift.

“Four CFO’s have all left in the most crucial financial time of the airport. In the meantime, the airport project has gone from 90 million to almost 160 million with nothing to show for it. Ballast Nedam is the only contractor I know that has almost doubled its contract value, without completing anything significant from that contract. So more money is being demanded with no clear reasons and the people, who overlook the money, are quitting. What else do we need to see to take some decisive action at the airport?” Emmanuel asked.

He also pointed out that in during the tenures of the now departed four CFO’s, Mingo has failed to ensure that a local counterpart was adequately prepared as is required in multiple airport contracts. “Years now we have been talking about a local counterpart and all we get is replacement Dutch men who turn and run when they realized the mess they are in and the failure of the leadership they are under,” Emmanuel said.

He continued: “The only thing we get from the government are statements that they are waiting on the airport to provide them with answers. How long now? The PJIAE board and management feed the government all sorts of lies and the government says ok, until the next disaster. To date we cannot hear why the airport is delayed, why additional funding was needed and exactly when we will stop suffering this embarrassment, five years after hurricane Irma,” Emmanuel said.

The MP is calling on the prosecutor’s office again to take the initiative as it did at the harbor and conduct an investigation at the airport and into the management of same. He said the latest lie of “unexpected” painting challenges being the reason the airport will be delayed again is ludicrous and blatantly deceitful considering the painting issues were outlines in a 2017 report.

“So nothing could have been unexpected, they knew. It is incompetence and it is fleecing of available money. Today, another CFO has left without explanation, and the government is fidgeting while the nation’s reputation and economy are damaged. Today, we have people in tents, lengthy processing lines, irate staff members, and management that intimidates staff members who express their opinions. No wonder we are the laughing stock of the Caribbean,” Emmanuel concluded.