Published On: Mon, May 14th, 2018

SONA: The true circumstances surrounding the new hospital

hospitalWILLEMSTAD - The structural work of the HNO hospital will be completed by the end of May 2018. The technical delivery will take place in accordance with the planning at the end of August 2018. The loose and fixed medical equipment has already been ordered and partly in the delivery and installation phase. The new ICT and the Hospital Information System - Electronic Patient File are for the most part ordered and in progress.

If the Minister of Public Health asks again where the 300 million has gone, the money has remained there. The part of the Transition that would be carried out by Berenschot was commissioned by SONA to KPMG and Deloitte Dutch Caribbean. Meanwhile, that part of the transition has been taken over by the New Hospital Otrabanda (HNO) operating entity set up by the minister and his director Gilbert Martina, supported by the St. Elizabeth Hospital (Sehos).

Transition

On Tuesday, April 17, the SONA Foundation agreed with Minister Suzanne Camelia-Römer that the foundation would hand over the project for the new hospital to the government of Curaçao, as SONA had already informed the government in September 2017. It is to be expected that this is in good cooperation with each other. However, the minister's attacks on SONA continue unabated.

Principal difference of insight

These attacks are based on a fundamental difference of opinion between the Minister and SONA. The minister recalls in every discussion that she has not yet received the audited annual accounts from 2014 up to and including 2016 from SONA. SONA shows below that this is not the core of the problem, but the consequence of it.

The core is:

- SONA parries stakeholders that damage the HNO project.

- Decisions by the government are in favor of stakeholders who damage the HNO project.

Both Minister Camelia-Römer and the Cabinet Rhuggenaath and Parliament have been informed of all the following points.

Excessive costs

In 2013, SONA countered the excessively invoiced costs of Berenschot International with which SONA signed a contract in 2011 for the implementation of the hospital project. For example, Berenschot charged a 30% surcharge on invoices from other parties. Those invoices ended up with Berenschot as executor but were paid in full by SONA. The 30% that Berenschot charged for himself, ran into the hundreds of thousands of guilders. SONA did what it is supposed to do and stepped on the brakes.

Unregulated declarations

Berenschot was unable to account for 3.3 million of their total declaration of approximately 8.5 million in 2013. SONA could not accept that. Because Berenschot was unable to provide any justification, no annual accounts could be prepared for 2013. Berenschot subsequently provided no financial justification with an auditor's report from the external auditor, for the HNO project over the years 2014 up to and including 2016.

To this day, despite all promises, SONA has not received financial statements, accompanied by an auditor's report, from Berenschot's HNO project.

Claim

Due to the government decision of 2013 to move the construction of the new hospital from the planned Amstel terrain to Otrobanda, a delay of three years arose. In 2012, SONA had already informed the government of this risk in writing. Due to this delay, the contractor Ballast Nedam filed claims with SONA of approximately 18 million US dollar above the budget for the construction of the hospital. When SONA wanted to negotiate, it turned out that Mr. Luc Steenhorst, Berenschot's project director, had acknowledged approximately 9 million US dollars of the claim in a letter dated 5 December 2015, without SONA's approval. This significantly weakened SONA's position, resulting in an increase of the costs for that project for the institution.

In a mail dated mid-December 2015, Berenschot confirms that they had acknowledged that claim to help Ballast Nedam. The claim would positively influence the value of the Ballast Nedam shares.

Lien

Contractor Ballast Nedam Infra B.V./Rönesans has placed alien of 31 million dollars on SONA bank accounts, for fear that SONA / Government will not have the means to complete the construction of the hospital project. This fear is unfounded. The so-called deficits mentioned in the media, among other things, are about non-budgeted costs. The non-budgeted costs were largely caused by the government decision to move the construction of the new hospital to Otrobanda. The construction itself has been budgeted and included in the funds already available at the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten that are earmarked for the HNO project.

Unfunded transition costs

In 2014 Berenschot started SEHOS preparations for the transition from the old to the new hospital. The total budget for this amounted to 22 million guilders. Berenschot asked for an advance of 3.5 million guilders for its transition activities. SONA agreed that Berenschot would still substantiate this amount. Berenschot never did this. In 2016, a report from Government’s Accountants Bureau (SOAB) revealed that Berenschot only performed 10% of the transition.

Superfluous: At the end of 2016, the Whiteman government, with the approval of parliament, removed 14 million guilders from SONA from the budget for the transition, for the improvement plans of SEHOS. This money has never been returned.

The further squandering of taxpayers’ money

In particular, because of all the above, SONA decided not to enter into an extension with Berenschot for the working relationship that ended on 31 December 2016. In doing so, SONA also canceled the management fee of at least 800,000 guilders per month that Berenschot wanted to charge for the remaining construction period. The word 'minimal' is literally in Berenschot's letter dated 6 January 2017. By not extending the working relationship, SONA has saved the community many millions of guilders over the past 16 months.

SONA also parried a lump sum payment of 17,5 million guilders that Berenschot presented "for unbundling the contract between SONA and Berenschot". This lump sum included the amount of 1.5 million for project director Luc Steenhorst and 500,000 guilders for board member Hein Vloet. SONA, in turn, presented a claim against Berenschot for unsubstantiated and inadequate declarations.

Berenschot favored by successive governments

Despite all of the above, in 2016 SONA received a series of letters from the then minister of Public Health, Mr Victorina, with the demand that SONA should restore the relationship with Berenschot. On behalf of the minister, the FCW-Legal office conducted an evaluation study in 2016. In connection with this, FCW-Legal spoke twice with SONA (manager of the project) and daily with Berenschot (executor of the project). SONA was not granted the usual procedure of hearing and rebuttal. Current Minister Camelia-Römer approves this in a letter dated 8 August 2017.

SONA learns from the media that the FCW-Legal report contains hard allegations against SONA. Until now, SONA has not received the final report from the successive ministers despite many requests to do so. Berenschot did receive the FCW report. This is apparent, among other things, from the fact that Berenschot quoted from this report in the April 2018 Parliamentary Assembly on the hospital project.

Ministerial supervisor works with Berenschot

The minister appoints Mr. Stanley Betrian as Ministerial Director and Regulator (MRT) in September 2017 to supervise the hospital project on her behalf. In turn, Mr. Betrian temporarily includes a Berenschot director in the ministerial team. This Berenschot member of the Board, Hein Vloet, is jointly responsible for unsubstantiated and inadequate declarations and the inability to provide financial statements for 2014-2016, accompanied by an auditor's report, from the HNO project. This responsibility is indispensable for SONA to provide the justifications that the minister rightly demands.

On the one hand, the Minister holds SONA responsible for the lack of accountability. According to the minister, this is even a key reason to end the management agreement with SONA. On the other hand, the ministerial team is strengthened with a person who was partly responsible for failing to properly render accountability.

Betrian plays a role in delay annual accounts

Finally, Berenschot concluded an agreement in principle with SONA in April 2017 to end the working relationship. In it, it is agreed that Berenschot will transfer all the administrations that it has so far retained. In July 2017, Betrian visited Berenschot in the Netherlands, while he had not yet spoken with SONA. Subsequently Berenschot informs SONA that it will sign the agreement and the transfer. As an explanation for this turnaround, Berenschot makes an explicit connection with the visit of Mr Betrian and what has been discussed there. Namely the task of Betrian in accordance with the concept of the National Decree and the explanation given by Betrian himself.

The cheese pastry and the receipt

The minister continues to tirelessly spread the equation: "If mother sends you with 25 guilders to the store to buy a cheese pastry, she expects you to come back with a pastry, the remaining amount and the receipt."

In this case, however, the store will keep the receipt. Mother keeps the hand over the head and tells you that there is no receipt.

Conclusuin

If the absence of financial statements by SONA was the true reason for the minister’s persistent allegations against SONA, it is inexplicable for the ministerial team to embrace that stakeholder that does not properly deliver the financial statements.

The fact that SONA did not deliver the annual report is therefore not the core of the problem. It is the result of the fact that cabinets and the ministers of public health, including the current minister Camelia-Römer and the cabinet Rhuggenaath, with all the consent of parliament, allow all of the above.

Managers:

Reginaldo Doran
Tonnie Rossen

Commissioners:

Richard Hart
Mike Alexander

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