PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The Board of the United St. Maarten party questioned the functioning of the holding company of the Princes Julianna International Airport (PJIA) in the face of the deplorable state of affairs at the airport. “The holding company (PJIAH) is supposed to protect the asset (PJIA) on behalf of the shareholder (government), but it has been silent and uninvolved while the airport managing and supervisory boards sinks PJIA deeper and deeper in debt,” said President of USP Mr. Cecil Nicholas.
The airports managing board has been hit with its third resignation of a Schiphol referred CFO under the watch of the supervisory board and CEO of the managing board Mr. Brian Mingo.
USP questioned the high rate of resignations and the plundering finances under the supervision of individuals touted by PJIA to be the best in their respected fields with stellar resumes used as justification by CEO Brian Mingo and the supervisory board for their acquisition. “Their enthusiasm to have these CFO’s as part of the managing board team was publicized and marketed as the best thing for the airport during this critical time of reconstruction, but responses to their resignations doesn’t seem to disburse the same level of energy and enthusiasm,” continued Nicholas.
The USP board questioned the sudden resignation of current CFO Ben Van der Klift in light of questionable blunders, setbacks and failure to deliver a semblance of any progress in the reconstruction of the airport. “Is his resignation motivated by efforts to protect his reputation against what is beginning to look like the worst construction scandal to ever hit St. Maarten?” asked Nicholas
Reconstruction cost has steadily increased since the awarding of the 90 million dollar contract to Ballast Nedam. In February of this year, the airport and NRPB announced the approval by the World Bank of an additional 20 million dollars for contingency, third party work and insurance, as unforeseen cost overruns. Reconstruction plans that were part of the tender were changed after the bid was won, which increased cost further, and the recent set back of having to reapply fire retardant coating to the internal beams is estimated to cost between 10 to15 million dollars. “The question that still remains unanswered is how such an important aspect noted in the original assessment of the damage to the building was omitted from the tender and in the reports compiled by engineers employed by Ballast Nedam,” queried Nicholas.
“The main artery that supplies life blood to this country and its people is being jeopardized without accountability. At this point the shareholder should be considering a resolution for holding the managing board as well as the supervisory board financially liable for their lack of action to stop or address the hemorrhaging and unimaginable ballooning cost of this project,” continued Nicholas.
The board implored parliament to question the composition of the airport’s project management team which does not include experienced structural engineer Derek Hillman a well-qualified structural engineer currently employed at PJIA, who played a pivotal role in the construction of the original building. They insisted that the timeline of the completion and delivery of the engineering reports compiled by the airport project management team be analyzed and compared to reports compiled by Ballast Nedam in house engineers to find out who knew what and when. Blunders of this magnitude is not normal and the financial consequences should not fall on the backs of the tax payers.
“Ballast Nedam cannot be absolved of its oversights if any, because it’s highly paid engineers should have known based on their own in house analysis that the airports description of the scope of works to be completed fell way short of what needs to be executed in order to complete the project,” lamented Nicholas.
In July 2021, the holding company (PJIAH) was revamped with a new managing director and new board members in an effort to improve good corporate governance. Since then their only calculated action to date, November 2022 was the firing of Mikey Hyman as COO of the airports managing board.
“The claim by government at the time was that both decisions was necessary because of serious breaches of corporate duties, rules and regulations. Ironically, with all that has been taking place at the airport since the revamping of the Holding company last year, there has been no signs of life, comments or actions since the firing of Mikey Hyman. We find it hard to believe that in the face of the resignation of multiple CFO’s and cost over runs almost equaling the 80 plus million dollars it took to construct the original building from scratch, that there hasn’t been any breaches of corporate duties, rules and regulations,” Nicholas said.
“The shareholder (Government) has tools at its disposal to stop the bleeding and correct the wrongs that have already taken place. The question remains why they haven’t exercised the people’s right to accountability by either holding the supervisory board and the managing board financially liable for their blundering and very costly bad decisions. Or retract the Concession to operate the airport from this failed managing and supervisory board team. Awarding the Concession to a well put together crisis management team and a new supervisory board at this point, would reflect responsible leadership by Government. It is very obvious that the supervisory board is not doing its job of accepting ownership of the tragedy taking place and supervising the managing board ran solely by CEO Brian Mingo and a revolving door of CFO’s. Their silence on the miscalculations and the resignations of three CFO’s speaks volume,” concluded Nicholas.