SOAB gives positive report for SSRP income, unemployment programmes

All persons registered received assistance ~

PHILIPSBURG–Government’s Accounting Bureau SOAB has returned a positive report to Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion on the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) income and unemployment support programmes for April, May and June 2020.

In the report, SOAB indicates that the programmes initiated by Irion are functioning and being managed properly.

The programmes were put in place to locally absorb, as well as possible, the unexpected economic and social shock delivered to world economies by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose was to provide financial assistance to businesses that are severely affected, and to create a social safety net for residents, who risked losing their jobs.

The income support programme includes income support for sole proprietors, vendor licence holders and independent bus and taxi drivers, who are facing revenue losses due to COVID-19.

SOAB was tasked by Irion to verify if the administration, internal review and payments of the programmes by the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) were executed in accordance with the specific articles of the ministerial decree related to this government initiative.

To complete its objective as assigned, SOAB had to undertake several administrative actions including, but not limited to determining if all persons who had received income and unemployment support, received the amount of NAf. 1,150, their eligibility, documents submitted, etc.; determine whether rejected applicants for support were indeed denied due to non-compliance with requirements; determine whether SMDF used and applied stipulated criteria and assess SMDF’s manner of disbursement of funds from the programmes, etc.

SOAB also checked whether separate bank accounts were created and maintained for both programmes and whether communication with applicants was thorough and detailed with relevant information.

Key to the report was SOAB’s determination that all persons who had received income or unemployment support from SMDF for the period mentioned, had received the amount of NAf. 1,150 as stipulated in the ministerial decree. SOAB verified this by obtaining an overview of the bank transactions that included all funds distributed up until July 27, 2020.

In total, there had been 340 individually approved applicants for the income and support programme from April to July, of whom SOAB tested 174 (51 per cent) approved applicants.  This sample accounted for NAf. 483,000 (50 per cent) of the total amount distributed by government to the SMDF for this programme. There were 282 applicants for the unemployed programme for the same period, of whom SOAB tested 143 of the approved applicants (50 per cent). This sample accounted for NAf. 430,100 (50 per cent) of the total amount distributed by government to the SMDF for the unemployment programme.

SOAB also verified the total amount of subsidy SMDF received from government for the SSRP programmes, to the tune of NAf. 7,687,380 from the government of St. Maarten. “We received the general ledger of the SMDF in which the transactions pertaining to both the income and unemployment programmes are recorded. We noted that all selected applicants for both the income and unemployment support programmes were recorded in the ledger,” SOAB informed the minister.

Read full SOAB report here