To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the independently operated Government Accountant Bureau, SOAB, wanted to give back to all the government entities with which it has been working since it came into existence in 1994. \
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Thus, SOAB’s Corporate University set up a symposium with the central theme: “Building strong foundations based on belief, perseverance, knowledge, integrity, consistency and trust.” The symposium, held on October 3, 2014, was opened by SOAB’s CEO, Geomaly Martes, and closed off by SOAB’s President of the Board of Directors, Freddy Curiel. Five guest speakers from St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, Saba, Bonaire and Curaçao presented various, interesting topics. Those in attendance also had the pleasure of experiencing an introductory motivational speech by Ms. Ona Brown, expert in personal and professional transformation. To have her present in Curaçao as the first guest speaker in front of this selected audience proved to be a shot on target and the best possible start of the event.
In his welcoming words, Mr. Martes thanked all the governments and related entities for their cooperation, confidence and understanding through the last two decades. He stressed that the ultimate goal for SOAB, based on a vast knowledge of government and similar experience in the public sector on each of the islands once forming the Netherlands Antilles, remains working on a durable government. The governments of the islands and their entities are entitled to demand professionalism from SOAB, which in turn provides products and services that are characterized by independence and integrity – the mission of the organization.
The symposium took off like a rocket when Mrs. Ona Brown used the theme “When Seasons Change” to point out, in her special way, the importance of personal leadership to realize personal and professional goals in a fast-paced, changing environment. As the daughter of the well-known Les Brown, Ms. Brown knew how to engage and entertain the public for one hour, planting a seed on how to become intentional about one’s personal growth.
With her experience in the forensic discipline, Mrs. Nelly Schotborgh, through her office SRA-Caribbean NV, assists organizations in preventing fraud cases. For the symposium, she prepared a presentation based on research for her doctoral thesis on fraud and corruption in the Dutch Caribbean. She stressed that while the islands in general already have a lot in place to fight fraud and corruption, as Transparency International concluded in 2013, the negative trends have not come to a standstill. This may be due to the fact that the rules are not generally known and the judicial system lacks general societal trust. Therefore, there still remains a lot to be done to eradicate the causes and sources of the misuse of competencies, functions and circumstances. Too often people are appointed based more on whom they know, instead of based on what they know. It is not generally applied that people in high public positions should act as role models for others in society.
As one of the managing directors of the Auditdienst Rijk of the Dutch Ministry of Finance, and member of the board of the Dutch association of accountants NBA, Mr. Paul Scholte spoke about public interest. The role of accountants in both the private and public sectors have been topics of discussion in the community – and it has not yet calmed down completely. Many of measures have been taken to determine how government should limit itself to govern more effectively and why the board of directors should just supervise the deeds and actions of management. He explained how this process is still taking place in the Netherlands, from which the Dutch Caribbean can also learn.
Former Prime Minister Etienne Ys laid out how everybody sustains the principles of good governance on paper, but in the political reality of these islands, politicians claim that they and the coalition parties need to hold a strong grip on all government entities. Political parties should use their influence on government bodies; their representatives in the board should report back to the individual parties about what is happening. In fact, as long as politics play such an important role in government entities, there is little chance something will really change or improve soon.
Retired General Dick Berlijn and Mr. Jacques Buith outlined how far reaching the cybernetic world has developed in the last couple of decades and how nowadays, organized crime has taken over these very same devices to steal from individuals, organizations, companies and governments worldwide. In individual countries, but also jointly with large institutions, everything should be in place to be able to counteract the cybercrimes committed continuously on a national and a global platform. This trend can also be handled by collective strategies and actions. The leading companies and government entities should also be prepared for immediate action when cybercriminals start knocking at their door, both in a pro-active and in a reactive mode. They referred to the joint initiative of CEO’s and public sector leaders, Partnering for Cyber Resilience, which focuses on cyber risk management for organizations and societies.
At the closing ceremony of the symposium, special merits were given to several employees of SOAB with 15 or more years of loyal collaboration, with special thanks given to Mr. Geomaly Martes, who has been at the helm for the 20 years of the organization’s existence.