Court rules in favor of UTS in appeal as well in case against General Audit Chamber Curaçao

Track record

23 January 2017

The General Audit Chamber Curaçao is not authorized to investigate the books of United Telecommunications Services (UTS). The Joint Court of Justice has confirmed this in appeal on Tuesday 10 January. The Court of First Instance already ruled identically on 21 March of last year. UTS was represented successfully by Frank Kunneman and Aubrich Bakhuis of VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne.

The dispute arose after a resolution by the Parliament of Curaçao in December 2014. In the unanimously adopted resolution, the audit chamber was instructed to carry out an investigation of the policies of the bodies of UTS. UTS is a government-related entity. The Country of Curaçao owns 87% of the shares. For this research, the audit chamber intended to have a team check and copy all necessary documents at UTS, and possibly download files from the servers of UTS as well. Radical methods, which is why UTS took the matter to court when the audit chamber threatened to gain access to the offices of UTS with the aid of the police. The Court in First Instance ruled in favor of UTS, and ruled that the audit chamber – as a (governmental) body of the Country of Curaçao – would act in breach of the law if it would execute the announced investigation.

The Country of Curaçao subsequently filed an appeal. As a result, the Joint Court of Justice confirmed the decision of the Court in First Instance in a comprehensive judgment. This was motivated by the Court by the principle that the audit chamber’s authorization covers public resources and the allocation of those resources. According to the Court of Justice, this doesn’t include UTS.

The relevance of this matter exceeds the interests of the litigating parties UTS and the audit chamber. The Court of Justice has ruled that the execution of powers by a governmental body is only permitted when this is based on the law. Moreover, the Country of Curaçao needs to respect the fundamental differences between the public and the private sector in its policies. UTS is not part of the public sector.

The matter was widely covered by the media, for instance in local newspapers Amigoe and Antilliaans Dagblad (clippings in Dutch).