Published On: Wed, Sep 11th, 2013

SONA is taking steps against European Commission

WillemstadWILLEMSTAD – As of 2004 the Stichting Ontwikkeling Nederlandse Antillen (SONA) manages the cooperation funds which the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Affairs (‘BZK’) puts available for the islands of the (former) Netherlands Antilles. In 2007 the European Commission approached SONA to manage the 9th EDF Fund for these islands on its behalf. Each year both the Dutch government and the European Union submit SONA and its executive body USONA to an audit which up to now has always resulted in a statement of approval followed by a formal discharge.

Last year the examination office of the European Commission OLAF investigated the implementation of the construction of a sewerage project worth a total of over 20 million euro’s in Bonaire. This was based on a complaint of a dismissed employee of one the supervisory companies. Via its executive organization USONA, SONA implements this project commissioned by the European Commission.

The management of USONA has informed OLAF extensively and in details. The current status of the investigation is that there is no suspicion towards USONA and SONA and that there is no interim report or a completed report. Although the investigation has not yet been completed, nevertheless a message came through The Netherlands from Brussels that SONA should not be allowed to manage the 10th EDF Fund on behalf of the European Commission. OLAF said it has never been consulted on the far-reaching steps of the European Commission. The (Dutch) Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations in The Hague has requested the European Commission for clarification.

The SONA Board has decided to take legal steps against the European Commission. The Board of SONA has never been heard or informed by the European Commission on possible complaints at USONA. The SONA Board cannot defend itself or take action. On request of the Board of SONA the management of USONA has prepared a factual report which a third party has validated. Based on this factual report the Board of SONA has no reason to doubt the professionalism or integrity of USONA.

The resulting situation is very unfortunate, because the findings of OLAF are not known, but apparently they already have an effect. This shocks the sense of justice. If the European Commission would stick to its far-reaching intention, then the islands (Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius) run the risk of missing out on more than 23 million euro’s (equivalent to more than 50 million guilders of US$ 27 million) for a variety of projects.

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