Results of investigation on financial misconduct at Aruba House heard in Parliament

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A year after members of Parliament requested the complete report on the investigation of the Central Accounting Service (CAD) on allegations of financial misconduct by ex-Plenipotenciary Minister of Aruba in the Netherlands, members of the Wever-Croes Cabinet together with the director of CAD presented the results of this investigation to Parliament.

On Tuesday, 13th of December, prime minister of Aruba, Mrs. Evelyn Wever-Croes, Mr. Roland Pang of CAD and Mr. Gilbert Wernet of the Department of Human Resources (DRH) were in Parliament during a public meeting to give information regarding the investigation at Aruba House in The Hague. Wever-Croes said in a press release that “this is a topic that garnered a lot of attention since it started, even political attention in Parliament and in various occasions I received letters from Parliament asking for more information. The Government said that it is important to carry out the investigation and to not hinder it.”

Wever-Croes said that the decision to open an investigation began with an e-mail she received in September 2021 addressed to the Council of Ministers and some MPs, mentioning possible irregularities allegedly taking place at Aruba House. “Indeed there were rumors before this. It was an anonymous e-mail that I received a few months earlier, in May 2021. An e-mail saying it is from a group of personnel of Aruba House. Right away I got in contact with them and asked them to provide proof of what they were saying because then I could take action and investigate. Regrettably no reply came. I contacted people that I knew over there and they all told me they didn’t write the e-mail”, she said.

But in September 2021 an e-mail with proof was received, and the prime minister said she immediately contacted CAD and DRH and the Council of Ministers to discuss the topic and immediately start an investigation on Aruba House. The government also sent a delegation to the Netherlands to ensure that everything found in the investigation to be wrong, would be right from then on.

Their first impression at Aruba House was that there was a need for reinforcement in the beginning of 2022. The Government sent a delegation consisting of one person from DRH and a budget coordinator from her ministry. Because Aruba House is in the Netherlands, their financial system is different and they did not have immediate access to all information, she said.

Wever-Croes indicated that the preliminary conclusion from this visit after CAD was quite advanced with their investigation was that the government needs to introduce change to Aruba House. The government changed the top of Aruba House. The investigation continued, and the government introduced necessary changes to avoid that the financial misconduct continued, she said.

Preliminary conclusions back then indicated three people were involved doing things that “were considered normal in the past”, as they argued in their defense. In the past, such misconduct regularly took place.

Mr. Pang said that the investigation focused on irregularities found with the use of a pin-card, where they noticed a large number of transactions. After evaluating these, they identified public servants involved in the expenses. The investigation focused on the last 18 months, covering 22,000 euros spent using a pin-card.

The investigation found expenses for lodging, gasoline and meals, which were already covered by a daily stipend, thus the ex-minister was receiving money in his pocket while using the card to cover the expenses the money was intended to cover. Some of these expenses, according to Mr. Pang, were incurred in periods when the minister was not in service, namely during vacations.

The investigation also uncovered irregularities in payments for dinners and lunches. CAD noted that a large sum was being spent on this compared to previous years. Furthermore, Mr. Pang said that previous ministers would regularly provide information about these meals, for example, who was invited or who they sat with and which topics were discussed. However, the ex-minister in question refused to provide this information. Pang commented that whenever public funds are used, information needs to be provided.

Nevertheless, according to our reporter, it is unlikely that the ex-minister will be prosecuted. This is because the prime minister indicated that he has agreed to pay back the money going back 18 months, and thus the Public Prosecution Service will not open a penal case against him.

Opposition members criticized the way in which the information was presented, requesting for the entire (redacted) report to be provided to Parliament. They also questioned the period covered in the investigation – 18 months – asking why the investigation did not cover the entire mandate of the ex-minister. Pang indicated that they worked with the information they had available.