By Dick Drayer
The investigation into possible violations of integrity at the Board for Financial Supervision (Cft) will be wrapped up smoothly, as far as President Raymond Gradus is concerned. We are to believe that violations of integrity -even excessive behavior for that matter- have not taken place at Cft. This was the conclusion of an external assessment. “Imperfections have been found, however.”
According to the Chairman, it is necessary to ‘implement improvements in the administrative organization’ and to ‘tighten internal procedures’. The report is an exercise in reading between the lines. Because if there is no fire, why use an extinguisher?
No lack of nice language from the independent agency, Ebben partners. It would however have been more logical perhaps, if the assignment for an integrity investigation had not given by Gradus himself, but by State Secretary Raymond Knops. Despite all good intentions, the hiring of a consultant by Cft itself has nothing to do with ‘independence’. Gradus is supposed to know this.
In addition, in terms of methodology, a plan of approach and a framework must be drawn up by the consultant, through which they will assess the organization and come up with conclusions and recommendations. But none of this can be found in the Press Release.
If I read the Press Release carefully, the integrity problems are related to internal procedures, such as the hiring of temporary staff and procedures related to trips abroad, gifts and gratuities. The latter will now even be written out in new Policy.
Louis Vuitton and Baoase
In plain language – or reading between the lines – this is called: Accepting presents, such as a Louis Vuitton wallet of 1800 guilders, bought in Aruba, or a nice guitar to the tune of 1500 guilders. But also, a nice weekend at the luxurious Baoase Resort with the family for 4000 guilders as a ‘Nice Gesture’.
And when you resign from Cft, on your way off to another non-existent mission with integrity as a middle name, a shiny iPhone worth 2000 guilders as ‘attention’ from the secretariat management. When you, as Regulator, do not pay any tax on this, either in the Netherlands or on Curaçao, that is a nice addition to the COHO cocktail.
For a Board which always insists on Integrity and for a Finance Minister who constantly blames non-payment of taxes and import duties as part of a persistent problem, this is nevertheless quite disappointing. You made your bed, now lie in it. Even if you do not feel like it.
When tightening the rules regarding trips abroad, I cannot help but think of Business Class tickets to the Netherlands, without any real necessity, or of allowances for extra days if one cannot immediately return home.
Prohibit your staff from accumulating Frequent Flier Miles but allow Top Management to do just that. These are the things that I often see in companies and institutions, where management sets its own rules and feels untouchable.
And then the culture of fear that reigns in the office. After all, the investigation was the result of anonymous reports. To complain freely at the office on the Rouvilleweg is apparently not safe.
However, this Culture of Fear is carefully ommited in the Press Release. Worse still: no employees were interviewed by the ‘independent investigation agency’ as part of the assessment. Only registers and accounting were checked. How do you explain that in the context of Integrity?
The matters mentioned above are dismissed as inaccuracies. But the Policy is still being adjusted: Tax is paid retroactively (which was evaded, as a matter of fact), The I-phones are now better registered, and purchases with the debit card at the Secretariat are now checked.
Local Board members
In this context, I would also like to remind readers of the letter from the Local Board members of April last year, where they stated that critical and other voices were not heard. They accused the chairman of not considering their contribution to advice, and of submitting this on his own initiative to the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom Government. Although of a different nature, the noise in Willemstad had apparently started earlier.
Gradus ends his press release with the words: “The Cft has to lead by example. It is important that everyone at Cft shows completely honest behavior.” That starts, Raymond, with openly acknowledging what is going wrong in your organization, by calling a spade a spade, by dismissing the person(s) responsible for these shameful facts.
Just now you will be back to lecturing local Governments with a raised accusing finger, while four fingers are pointing right back to you.