~ Wants Mingo, board to step down ~
PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher Emmanuel has issued a firm call for the resignation of Shareholder Representative of the Harbour Claret Connor, if he fails to provide all documents related to the contracts the harbour has with Checkmate Security Services within one week.
He has also issued a call for the resignation of the board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Harbour Mark Mingo over the controversial increase in Checkmate's contract.
Checkmate Security Services has been making headlines in recent days when news broke that the company is in line for a massive US $2.2 million increase in its contract at the Harbour Group of Companies this year. The Daily Herald understands that the Harbour subsidiary St. Maarten Ports Authority has budgeted US $3,138,300 for 2015, to spend on outside security services (Checkmate Security), up from $963,715 spent in 2014.
Mingo declined to provide MPs with the Checkmate contracts during a meeting of Parliament's Permanent Committee on Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications last Thursday.
Emmanuel will be sending a letter to Connor today, Monday, requesting the harbour's contract with the previous owners of Checkmate as well as the contract with the new owners within seven days. The MP said Connor, the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, should do the honourable thing if he fails to provide the contracts to the country's highest legislative body. A no confidence motion will also be tabled against Connor in Parliament, if the information is not provided and he fails to vacate his seat.
Emmanuel told this newspaper on Sunday, that MPs were being given the run-around when information is requested about the harbour. He alluded to the debate on the 2015 budget in which the minister had referred MPs to the Harbour for certain information that had been requested. He said the Harbour is now declining to provide information to MPs when asked about the Checkmate contracts.
"It is clear that the Connor does not have a grip on the running of the Harbour," Emmanuel contends. "When you ask the Minister questions he says he refers you to the Harbour, and says he will get back to us in two weeks, but two weeks has long passed and we still haven't received anything."
The MP said the back and forth gives the impression as if "the Harbour is a privately owned company being run by itself and the shareholder representative is just there to fill a seat and these things should not be.
"Is the Harbour a government-owned company or is it a private entity? If it is a government-owned company then the government-owned company should answer to Parliament; but, listening to the CEO [during last Thursday's meeting- Ed.], it is clear that the Harbour runs by itself and answers to no one, and if the shareholder can't get answers from the Harbour and can't provide answers to Parliament then he should resign," Emmanuel said.
"The people's representative, which is Parliament, is the highest legislative body in this country and shouldn't be told that it can't get information due to secrecy or for any other reason. You can't have government-owned companies out there making deals with all types of different entities and Parliament doesn't know what is going on."
He continued: "It is clear that the shareholder representative does not have a grip on what is happening with the running of the Harbour and who the Harbour answers to. If the shareholder representative is supposed to answer to Parliament, and he is on the board then the Harbour should answer to him. If the Harbour doesn't answer to him and he doesn't answer to us then it's as if the Harbour is a government by itself. If the shareholder representative is the minister, who has to give answers to Parliament then the Harbour should be giving answers to the shareholder representative, but if he [Connor – Ed.] can't provide answers to Parliament then he should resign."
Emmanuel's request for the information will be sent via the Chairman of Parliament Dr. Lloyd Richardson and will be addressed to Minister Connor and copied to the entire Council of Ministers.
Regarding his call for Mingo and the Harbour Board to resign, Emmanuel said: "I can't understand how the board can justify a 300 per cent increase to Checkmate in two years. How can they go from US $963,715 in 2014 to $3.1 million in 2015? How can the board justify this? When you read the justification from Checkmate it doesn't make sense."
He said too, that Parliament has to look at how boards of government-owned companies are set up.