SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Government’s accounting Bureau (SOAB) has returned a positive report to Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion on the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Program (SSRP - income and unemployment support programs for April, May and June 2020), providing a clear indication that the programs initiated by Minister Irion are functioning and being managed properly.
The programs were put in place to locally absorb, as best possible, the unexpected economic and social shock delivered to world economies by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The purpose was to provide financial assistance to businesses that are severely affected and to create a social safety net for citizens who risked losing their jobs. The income support program includes income support to sole proprietors, vendor license holders, independent bus and taxi drivers who are facing revenue losses due to COVID-19.
The SOAB was tasked by Minister Irion to verify if the administration, internal review and payments of the programs by the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) were executed in accordance to the specific articles of the Ministerial Degree related to this government initiative.
To complete its objective as assigned by the Minister, SOAB had to undertake several administrative actions including, but not limited to:
- Determining if all persons that have received income and unemployment support, received the amount of NAf 1, 150, their eligibility, documents submitted ect.
- Determine if rejected applicants for support were indeed denied due to non-compliance of requirements.
- Determine if SMDF used and applied stipulated criteria.
- Assess SMDF manner of disbursement of funds from the programs ect
- If separate bank accounts were created and maintained for both programs
- If communication with applicants was thorough and detailed with relevant information.
Key to the report was SOAB’s determination that all persons that have received income or unemployment support from SMDF for the period mentioned above, have received the amount of NAf 1,150 as stipulated in the Ministerial decree. The SOAB managed to verify this by obtaining an overview of the bank transactions that includes all funds distributed up until July 27, 2020.
In total there were 340 individual approved applicants for the income and support program from April to July of which SOAB tested 174 (51%) approved applicants. This sample accounted for NAf 483,000 (50%) of the total amount distributed by government to the SMDF for this program. There were 282 applicants for the unemployed program for the same period of which SOAB tested 143 of the approved applicants (50%). This sample accounted for NAf 430,100 (50%) of the total amount distributed by government to the SMDF for the unemployment program.
The SOAB also verified the total amount of subsidy SMDF received from government for the SSRP programs, to the tune of NAf 7,687,380 from the government of St. Maarten. “We received the general ledger of the SMDF in which the transactions pertaining to both the income and unemployment programs are recorded. We noted that all selected applicants for both the income and unemployment support programs were recorded in the ledger,” the SOAB informed the Minister.