SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Ferfina S.P.A Group, the parent company of INSO, the construction company contracted to build the new hospital on St. Maarten, has allegedly amassed over US $833 million in debt with an apparent US $6 billion in order backlogs.
Additionally, documents from the Courte de Roma show that another affiliate company, Condotte, as well as INSO, has been seeking urgent reprieve from creditors who are demanding funds that they simply cannot pay, or work they cannot perform.
Member of Parliament Rolando Brison of the United St. Maarten (US) party faction in Parliament on Tuesday said he has uncovered information about the precarious financial situation and potential Bankruptcy of Ferfina S.P.A, the parent company of INSO.
“I have been investigating various aspects about the building of our hospital, and was very concerned to find out by various sources in Italy about the very volatile situation the parent company of INSO finds itself in,” stated MP Brison. ““My fear is that St. Maarten may find itself as one of these creditors, and our hospital finds itself as part of the 6 billion dollars work backlog” continued MP Brison.
According to research conducted by MP Brison, the Ferfina SPA Group is the holding company over various entities including Condotte and INSO. A September 18, 2018 report of Italian media agency Affar Italiana, showed the company with over 833 million dollars in debt, while only having 233 million in assets. “Other legal documents I have attained show the company with a reported 6 Billion dollars in order backlogs. Will St. Maarten’s hospital also be lost in this huge amount of backlog the conglomerate has amassed?”
MP Brison added that the negative situation is only further compounded by the fact that the NIB is involved in the financing of this hospital, and entity that is directly linked to the ENNIA Group currently being investigated and restricted by the Central Bank. “So your construction company and financier are both facing potential bankruptcy? Is it the intention to use public funds to bail these companies out?”
He said the right thing to do, and the only thing to do, is for the Minister to halt plans until he is certain, without any doubt, that tax payers money and the viability of the hospital’s future is safe. If the Minister does not give parliament sufficient confirmation that public funds and this project are not at risk, Brison said he will be calling on a Parliamentary inquiry into the entire process of the building of this hospital and anything related thereto.
Another report shows the conglomerate filing for a blank agreement in March of this year to the Courte de Roma to avoid financial action from creditors. Around that time of year, managing director Duccio Astaldi, cousin of Paolo Astaldi the owner of the company, was arrested for its alleged involvement in a round of bribes for road infrastructure in Sicily.
It is also surprising as to what level of screening was conducted in selecting this company. “It is very strange how the World Bank can quickly approve loans in tens of millions for the Hospital, without doing necessary due diligence, yet we hear of the immense difficulty local companies are having in complying with the procurement standards of the World Bank. One young professional told me she had literally given up. Is there a level playing field when it comes to procurement for our own local and foreign companies?”
A letter with various questions has been dispatched to the Minister of VSA Emil Lee: “Has any due diligence been done before continuing with this company? Is it wise to continue with a company that may not have the financial backing it needs to build something as important as our hospital?”
“These facts have been available for months. I would be surprised if Minister Lee was not be aware of this, and nonetheless, the groundbreaking still continued. Was this just a charade by the Minister and the government to push forward with this hospital and INSO? The Minister went as far as advocating transparency and integrity during his speech at the ground breaking: Are we fooling the people of St. Maarten and sending a false message? I for one will not take my people for a fool and have to bring this information and let them be aware of what is at risk.”
“It seems the Minister was tipped to my investigation, and sent out yet another lofty press release stating that despite the circumstances, ‘Tripartite members of the Ministry of VSA, SZV and SMMC have confident that the project is properly insulated from any financial shocks.’ I wish to state emphatically that I do not share the confidence of this Minister, who hid this fact from the public only until a local website had revealed the details of my investigation.
“Millions of guilders of our own social premiums and pension funds are being pumped into a company that is facing serious financial issues, as both the SZV and APS confirmed they are involved with the financing of the hospital. “St. Maarten, these are YOUR hard earned social premiums and savings potentially going into a black hole of debt. The lack of urgency of the Minister is a slap in the face to the millions our local workers pay each month to safeguard their health and their future, but just to ‘cut a ribbon’ he proceeded nonetheless.”
“A hospital for our country is of utmost importance, but what good is a hospital project if the one contracted to build is facing bankruptcy?” “Minister Lee’s M.O for too long has been to deflect, confuse and deny. He has become a master at this. For this reason, I only came out publicly with this information after having conducted my own very detailed investigation. The facts are clear, and the Minister has a lot of answering to do.”