PHILIPSBURG–Justice Minister Roland Duncan said his driver had permission to use his official car on Saturday afternoon when she struck a little boy on Soualiga Road. The boy was unharmed.
The incident raised concerns in the community about civil servants using government vehicles on the weekends and after hours.
Duncan, speaking on Radio Soualiga on Sunday, stated that the driver was officially working because she had driven him to his office and had asked permission to leave to get some food when the incident occurred. He added, “Here in St. Maarten, we love to assume all kinds of weird stuff.”
As for concerns that he has an Audi as his official car, the Justice Minister said it is “a brand new second-hand car” and was an Audi A4, not an Audi A6 that cost some US $60,000.
The car is in such “good condition” and “looks so new it’s fooling a lot of people it is a 60,000 dollar brand new car.”
Duncan further explained that the five Hyundai Veracruzs used by the former commissioners where passed on to five ministers and the car of the former Lt. Governor is used by the Prime Minister. That left the Ministry of Justice without an official vehicle.
For some five months, Duncan said he used a black Ford 500 that was formerly used by Police Chief Derrick Holiday. The Ford 500 was recalled by the Ford Motor Company some years ago because of issues with the brake system.
The Minister said he searched for “a representable car” and found the 2008 Audi A4 that had some 12,000 miles on it. He picked an Audi because it is the “foremost car” used governments. Ministers in Europe usually use an Audi A5 and senior civil servants such as department heads have Audi A4.
The Audi cost less than a new Veracruz and was bought taking into account government’s financial position, Duncan said.
As for civil servants using government vehicles after hours and on weekends, Duncan said it’s “an age-old problem” across the world. He used the example of a fireman who is on call using his government vehicle to go to the supermarket to illustrate that it’s not simple to define when a vehicle is used for work or personal reasons.
Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto had stated in the past that he was working on a solution to have government vehicles as much as possible parked after working hours as this would reduce wear and tear on the vehicles and maintenance cost.