The Daily Herald writes that the findings of the Inspection Signalling and Guidance ISB of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the coordination of tasks that the Dutch government carries out in the Caribbean Netherlands has serious shortcomings has the full attention of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk.
Plasterk sent a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Friday to confirm that he has taken steps to remedy the situation after receiving signals last year of, as he put it, “severe problems in the coordination of the tasks of the Dutch government for the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.” In his letter, the minister explained that he spoke with National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) Wilbert Stolte about the matter after which he decided to order an evaluation. Following these talks, it was announced on September 13, 2013, that Stolte would resign per May 1, 2014. The Dutch Parliament was informed of this. “The evaluation consists of two parts. The first part resulted in the report of the Inspection, Signalling and Guidance,” stated
Plasterk on Friday. The original intention was to send the ISB report to Parliament, along with the findings of a small evaluation committee, which was the second step in the evaluation process, and the reaction of government.
The committee in question, the Committee Small Evaluation Caribbean Netherlands, was installed in December last year. This committee is chaired by advisor at ABD TOP Consult of the Ministry of BZK Marcel van Gastel with Saba Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and Inspector General of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Jenny Thunnissen as members. The committee was asked to analyse government’s coordination from a “more constitutional and administrative perspective” whereas the ISB inspection had focused more on people’s opinions and experiences, it was stated in the committee’s installation decree, which was sent to Parliament as well. The committee was asked to come with administrative recommendations and concrete proposals and present a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK before February 1, 2014. The committee hasn’t made the deadline, but should now present its report in the second half of March. The committee recently held extensive talks with all stakeholders on the islands.
The ISB report was initially sent confidentially to a number of government officials and departments both in the Netherlands and the public entities. However, the report was leaked and published in Curaçao newspaper Antilliaans Dagblad on Friday. This prompted the minister to send the report to the Dutch Parliament the same day.
Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) didn’t hesitate to seek clarity. Van Raak submitted a single written question to the minister, asking him to send ISB’s critical report to the Second Chamber at once, with or without a response of government.
Plasterk expressed his concerns in the letter that he sent to Parliament on Friday. “The findings in the report confirm my impression of the seriousness of the situation,” he stated.
According to the Antilliaans Dagblad, the Dutch government “completely fails” in its dealings with public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The newspaper reported that the ISB painted a shocking total picture: the Dutch Government doesn’t have a vision of what it wants with the islands, the primarily responsible authorities coordinate insufficiently and the executing civil servants don’t have confidence in each other. There is little cooperation, communication and comprehension between civil servants working at the Dutch ministries for the Caribbean Netherlands, including those that are dispatched to the islands, concluded ISB. Those civil servants that do communicate, insufficiently share their information. Directive by the Ministry of BZK is lacking, as is prioritisation. There is no central vision and insufficient sensitivity in carrying out the tasks that belong to the Dutch government, while policy and execution are not tested locally to see whether they are attainable. Local government officials feel that they are insufficiently heard and consulted on an integral level. The local governments are not always clear on the requirements that The Hague
wants them to comply with. The ministries are asking a lot of the local government, which cannot always comply with the wishes due to the lack of capacity. Also, the local absorbing capacity of the immense amount of regulations is limited.
The inspection by ISB, carried out between October 22 and November 6, served to get an impression of the way the Dutch government coordinates its tasks in the Caribbean Netherlands in anticipation of the evaluation of the coordination of the Dutch government in its dealings with the islands in 2014, ahead of the larger constitutional evaluation in 2015.
Employees of the National Government Service Caribbean Netherlands (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland RCN) indicated in the ISB report that there is general distrust among many of the civil servants working on or on behalf of the islands. The ISB concluded that Stolte, who will resign per May 1, should be replaced by an interim as soon as possible, also because of the reported troubled relationship between Stolte and the Ministry of BZK. The relation between Stolte and the islands hasn’t been good either. ISB’s conclusion that it would be better to appoint an interim National Government Representative was in line with the view of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate. ISB is an independent unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which audits Dutch embassies, consulate-generals and representations abroad.
In a letter to Minister Plasterk dated December 4, the Senate’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations suggested appointing an interim person and waiting with the appointment of a new National Government Representative until after the evaluations. The minister replied on December 17, 2013, that the current law doesn’t include the function of an interim National Government Representative, but that, in principle, it was possible to shorten the six-year term of this official. The minister further stated that the committee chaired by Van Gastel had been to draft a profile for the National Government Representative, including advice on the position, content and role of this official, after which the procedure to select and appoint a successor to Stolte would start.