PHILIPSBURG:--- The Ombudsman, Dr. Nilda Arduin, has started a systemic investigation at the level of the functionally responsible Minister, into the procurement process/ Procurement Management Policy of Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company N.V. (PJIAE) and the application of same in practice.
The transparency of the pertinent procedures and policies at the level of the functionally responsible government body for PJIAE, i.e. the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT), who is also the shareholder representative, is being queried.
Considering the nature of a complaint filed with the Ombudsman against PJIAE, and PJIAE having been identified and listed as a Private entity with Public authority (a ‘ZBO’), as well as transparency required from government-owned or controlled private entities, the Ombudsman concludes that PJIAE is bound by the principles of propriety required from public bodies.
On 28 March 2018, a complaint was filed with the Ombudsman against PJIAE regarding a request from the pertinent company to PJIAE for an explanation why the company was not awarded the contract for which it submitted a tender.
Upon invitation from PJIAE, the company submitted an offer for (a) project(s) for which bids were requested by PJIAE. As a reputable longstanding service supplier to PJIAE disclosure of the criteria used to award the project(s) was requested. In addition, a copy of the Procurement Management Policy used by PJIAE was requested in order for the Complainant to familiarize itself and get a better understanding of the selection process and requirements in the tendering of future projects. By email dated 1 May 2018 Complainant was however informed that the Procurement Management Policy (PMP) is a confidential and internal document, and could not be shared with the Complainant.
The Ombudsman attempted to resolve the complaint via an Intervention. However, after numerous correspondence between the Ombudsman, PJIAE and its legal representative, the Ombudsman proceeded to refrain from further investigation of the complaint, upon receipt of a rather vague response regarding alleged re-evaluation of the offers tendered by the invited vendors against PJIAE’s procurement policy and procedures.
The scope of propriety reflects the norms expected from (semi) government bodies in executing laws, policies and established procedures, among which are openness and transparency. Considering that the core of the complaint filed is of general interest to the public, the Ombudsman has resolved to conduct a systemic investigation regarding:
1. The Procurement Management Policy of PJIAE (PMP) and the application of same; transparency of the pertinent procedures and policies/tender processes and evaluation at the level of the functionally responsible government body for PJIAE.
2. The accessibility of the evaluation criteria used in the tendering and selection process to bidders, interested (third) parties and the public in general.
The Ombudsman observes that openness and transparency regarding PJIAE’s procurement procedures are critical in the rebuilding process, in particular considering that according to media reports the Sint Maarten Airport Reconstruction Project is one of the projects under preparation for funding via the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund.