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Johnson to meet with SCDF on Audit and Subsidy

The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation SCDF will have an opportunity to state their concerns over TEATT Minister the Honourable Stuart Johnson's request for their audited books of 2017 and 2018.

"The resistance to this request is simply baffling to me since the SCDF agreed to this request, which is part of the Ministerial Decree granting their subsidy of Naf. 350 K," said Johnson.

Starting in 2018, the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT) has stipulated in the Ministerial Decree granting the SCDF subsidy that the foundation must present its audited books for the previous Year. While the 2019 financial year is not completed, the Ministerial Decree does mention the need for the government to have a report of spending in that period as well.

According to the Decrees given to the SCDF for the Subsidy, interested party/parties can appeal against this decision based on article 55, and 56, first paragraph, National Ordinance Administrative Case Law (LAR) within six (6) weeks through submitting a notice to the Minister.
 
Instead of submitting a notice of objection to the Minister, based on article 7, and 16 of the National Ordinance Administrative Case Law (LAR), the person(s) concerned can submit their notice of objection the Court of First Instance within six that same (6) weeks.

The SCDF accepted the subsidy without objection and Carnival was held. "It must be made very clear that I am in no way critical of the execution of Carnival-50 at this point because from all indications the SCDF has done an excellent Job of hosting the event again and for that, they deserve all praise and thanks. But the work to host the event includes accountability and this should not be shunned away from as doing so will unnecessarily raise questions as to why anyone would resist a transparent approach to their management of this annual national event," said Johnson.

It has also been established since the completion of the 2018 – 2022 Governing Program for the St. Maarten United Christian Democratic Coalition, that their must be more emphasis on the cultural aspect of Carnival. This is also mentioned in the Subsidy Decree. The Minister has expressed his concern that the Coalition is also keenly observing the situation with the SCDF in hopes that their can be more clarity on the organizations functioning and that the organization adheres to the objectives of the Governing Program and the Ministerial Decree.

By May of each Year, the SCDF submits its request for a subsidy to the government for hosting St. Maarten's Carnival for the following Year. The Ministerial Decree that comes from the Minister of TEATT outlines the conditions under which government is prepared to but not obligated to grant said subsidy. Once the Minister of TEATT is satisfied that there is sufficient justification for the support, the Council of Ministers meets on the subject of Subsidy for SCDF at which point an approval is given.

Johnson said he has also spoken with his colleagues in the Council of Ministers and the intention is for the SCDF to also present their final audited report to the Council of Ministers which is the ultimate body that finalizes decisions for large sums of money.

Another concern the Minister has based on the increase in the SCDF's request for subsidy by Naf. 200k is that there has to be a clear understanding of what the Tax Payers Money is being spent on. According to Johnson, when he was President of the SCDF for 2011 and 2012, he commissioned a financial audit for both years. He said, "This is something that helps the organization each year to understand where it is and what it can do to improve its financial standings."

Today there are still allegations of people participating in in various events during carnivals dating back to 2017 who say they have stating not been paid by the SCDF. While Carnival is growing larger and attracting more people each Year, the fear is that without accurate accounting for the show, it will become too costly to host with no clear indication of what the real costs are and how best to mitigate losses.

The only difference this Year is that unlike other years when the foundation has requested NAf.350k, this Year they are asking Naf.550k for the next Carnival Season in 2020.