Integrity, a (not-so) distant goal?!

After two successful cross-sectoral and interactive workshops held at the end of last year, we were invited for the third workshop title “Towards Integrity In Aruba,” where we heard from different stakeholders how they are working on realizing integrity on the island.

We heard from the Ministry of Transport, Integrity, Nature and Elderly Affairs, from Bureau Integriteit Aruba (BIA), from Stichting Deugdelijk Bestuur Aruba, SDBA, and from HopeAruba, regarding their activities revolving  around integrity.  The morning was hosted by the University of Aruba, and skillfully facilitated by Bianca Peters.

Following the presentations, we had the opportunity to ‘speed-date’ these organizations, to hear more about their actual plans, which I unfortunately missed, but I was wide awake throughout the presentations, which proved beyond doubt that the issue of integrity has climbed up a few notches on the scale of importance. It is being talked about.

Armand Hessels whom I admire greatly, gave an interesting talk and I would like to share with you some of his findings.

He stated that the activities of his organization, SDBA, are trying to make people aware of their responsibility to contribute to the realization of good governance, something we all must support because there is NO QUICK FIX to turn our institutions into effective organizations that prevent and fight corruption while fostering transparency and integrity.

According to Armand, we must all participate because media observers inform that corruption in the Caribbean has become normalized, with politicians getting richer and their people getting poorer. In Aruba he continues, thanks to careless, ineffective governing, up to 30% of OUR annual resources are wasted, maybe more.

So, what does this bad governance mean?

Armand spells it out: Political patronage; arbitrariness, while skirting the law; obscure decision-making; not keeping promises, or sticking to agreements; lack of transparency; personal, financial and material mismanagement; obstruction of supervision and accountability; lack of integrity, corrupt management; misuse of power / abuse of law.

While many have a positive perception of the Dutch motherland, as a place of high integrity, corruption on the Dutch islands has become entrenched, and culturally accepted, and though a great number of reports have written alerting against the phenomenon, things only get worse.

To illustrate his claim, Armand presented the forum with the following slide where he listed investigated cases, with the names of the defendants or accused, their political affiliation, and the year of the alleged accusations.

Fondo Desaroyo San Nicolaas, former prime Minister Henny Eman & Former Minister Tico  Croes, AVP, 2002.

Ibis, former minister Paul Croes, AVP, 2017.

Avestruz, Ostrich,  former minister and current member of parliament Benny Sevinger, AVP, 2019.

Flamingo, former minister Otmar Oduber, AVP/POR, 2020.

Diamante, former party leader, member of parliament, Alan Howell, POR, 2021.

Kukwisa, Marisol Tromp, POR/MAS, 2022.

Aruba Huis, former minister Guilfred Besaril, MEP, 2022.

Kwihi, Chris Romero – Edison Briesen, MEP, 2023.

Lands Laboratorio, the hospital’s lab, 10 million missing, 2008.

Management of Educational Affairs, 1 million missing, 2015.

Education for Employment, 3 million missing, 2017.

Angelo, vaccination certificate falsification, 2022.

Note that between the first to the second investigation there is a 15-year gap. According to Armand the island’s prosecutor had to endure so much flack, that he/she lost his/her appetite for investigations, but that doesn’t mean that officials did not dip their hands in the till.

Arman then calculates the waste caused between unnecessary direct cost or excessive government personnel, deficient financial administration, especially tax evasion, failed, and/or suspicious government projects.

He reaches the conclusion that the minimal average cost of bad governance is Awg 330 million a year, compounded by Awg 120 additional million in interest payments on above, for a total of Awg 450 million wasted with no real benefit for the country, about 30% of the annual budget.

Imagine what we could do with that!

HopeAruba reiterated that we cannot relegate the promotion of good governance to the General Prosecutor, by just supporting criminal law enforcement. We must get involved because the most appropriate body, our Parliament is dysfunctional, and only serves the government (read tomorrow’s column)

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March 21, 2023
Rona Coster