Acting Minister of VROMI Veronica Jansen-Webster: Former Minister’s misinformation campaign unfortunate

Minister of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor (VSA), Mrs. Veronica Jansen-Webster


PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — In response to remarks made by former Minister of VROMI now Member of Parliament Egbert J. Doran in his radio interviews on May 27th 2024 and June 3rd 2024, Acting Minister of VROMI Veronica Jansen-Webster provided a fact check on the status of the staffing at the Ministry of VROMI and the state in which the Ministry was found.

“In one of his interviews he refers to me as a liar, while the facts speak for themselves. The Chief of Staff of VROMI, Raeyhon Peterson, has provided me with an update on all of the departments, and the situation is very alarming,” Jansen-Webster said.

When the previous Minister took office, the Head of Permits and the Head of Inspection had already joined the Ministry. The current Head of Inspection has been with the ministry for many years. The previous Head of Permits applied and was appointed as the Head of Infrastructure Management. Since then, there have been many “acting” Heads of Permits, and the current Minister and her Cabinet have recently completed the recruitment process for the new Head of Permits, who is set to start in July 2024. Domain Affairs also lacks a department head and is now led by an interim head. The Domain Affairs vacancy was advertised, and interviews began last week.

Regarding the Secretary General (SG) role, the outgoing Minister removed the former SG from his post after almost 25 years of service in the Ministry of VROMI. After this, a number of persons were temporarily designated as SG. None completed the necessary steps to officially become Secretary General. The previous Minister made the choice to disregard the entire SG function and the process of recruiting an official one. The consistent lack of a Secretary General for the Ministry of VROMI raises serious concerns about the legitimacy of many of the decisions made by the previous Minister up to the point of leaving office.

Currently, a young professional who resides in the Netherlands has accepted the SG role and is expected to start working with VROMI in September 2024. The Acting Minister and the Cabinet’s efforts to finalize this process have been a priority since taking office, since the completion of this young professional’s recruitment stalled and was left unfinished by the previous government.

Jansen-Webster also addressed accusations that she bullied the government’s human resource department (P&O) into reversing hiring decisions made by the former Minister.

“The Personnel & Organization department has expressed their gratitude to me and my cabinet for our enthusiastic cooperation with their work, and praised our proactive participation and positive outlook of the Ministry, which has resulted in a productive working relationship,” Jansen-Webster said.

The Minister and her cabinet staff took it upon themselves to address the situation in which personnel were left behind by the previous government. They were employed for a one-year period beginning 1 June 2023, and to date have not gone through an actual HR cycle. This means that they have not obtained a good or suitable performance appraisal from the Ministry and their contracts were never formally renewed by the previous government. Still, P&O was advised by the former administration to make them all permanent by the end of the year, with no explanation or clarification of their job performance.

After discovering this, the current Acting Minister instructed the department heads of VROMI to justify why they wanted these persons to remain in the Ministry, which is in alignment with good governance practices and assists these new hires for when their national decrees are sent to the Governor. Following this, the procedure was carried out to appoint these individuals to the Ministry as public servants rather than as independent contractors who do not have access to employment benefits and insurance, which is how they were employed to date.

Finally, Jansen-Webster and her cabinet took sad note of one unfortunate lie told by the MP during his interview, concerning the funeral costs for Mr. Woods, a treasured VROMI employee who passed away earlier this year. In his interviews, Doran implied that Jansen-Webster and staff had stopped the assistance from Government to the family of the late Mr. Woods for his funeral expenses. This is contrary to official documentation that shows that on May 24, 2024, the relevant Ministers signed off on the payment of the funeral expenses, one week before the MP gave his first interview and claimed payment had been stopped.

“We personally ensured that the advice for these expenses was immediately handled by the Ministry of General Affairs and the Ministry of Finance,” Chief of Staff Raeyhon Peterson said. “It’s a shame that MP Doran would stoop so low as to use Mr. Woods’ name in this way and I apologize to Mr. Woods’ family for this. While the MP claims that what he is saying is based on ‘good sources,’ it is actually incorrect. The negligence of the former cabinet on this matter fits into their history of making mediocre and haphazard decisions that ultimately cause more delay than actual results.”