Minister of Justice Anna Richardson.
PHILIPSBURG–After having read a New York Times article about unusual and questionable investments at the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Minister of Justice Anna Richardson sent a communication to State Secretary Alexandra Van Huffelen to express great concern about this report.
The New York Times article alleges misappropriation of funds at UNOPS’ Sustainable Investments in Infrastructure and Innovation fund S3i. UNOPS is the organisation that St. Maarten’s Ministry of Justice and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK have been in talks with to build a new prison in St. Maarten.
Although no formal agreements have been signed by St. Maarten to start the prison project and discussions on finalisation of the agreements are ongoing, Richardson found it prudent to contact Van Huffelen to emphasize the importance of maintaining the integrity of the current process.
Additionally, Richardson encouraged that swift action be taken by St. Maarten’s Ministry of Justice and the Netherlands’ BZK Ministry to jointly assess specifically the impact of these initial reports and the outcome of a UN investigation on the development of a new prison on St. Maarten and possible future cooperation with UNOPS.
As a result of the reports, the Kingdom of the Netherlands has asked for clear measures against fraud within UNOPS and has made the decision to pause payments on current projects. The Kingdom of the Netherlands will also temporarily exercise caution on entering into new legal obligations with UNOPS.
As soon as possible, St. Maarten and the Netherlands hope to obtain a better understanding of the effects of this case on the entire UNOPS organisation and the measures that will be taken to strengthen the financial control mechanisms at UNOPS.
Richardson said, “I am fully aware that UNOPS is a very large organisation that operates on a global scale with several regional subdivisions, and that these reports do not concern its operations in this part of the world. Nevertheless, I do think this news gives serious cause for concern and requires action.
“Pending the outcome of the UN’s investigation, we must determine along with our partners in the Netherlands what further safeguards can be put in place specifically for St. Maarten’s prison project, to guarantee correct financial expenditures of our taxpayers’ monies. I look forward to these discussions taking place forthwith.”
Bron: Daily Herald