BT: Mr. Gilroy Usher
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
Corruption in government is one of the main reasons underprivileged communities or poor neighborhoods exist in a country. Belize is a prime example of that. Over the last 20 years Ministers and their cronies have stolen millions of dollars from the public purse that should have been used to vastly improved the standard of living of Belizeans in marginalized neighborhoods on Southside Belize City and across the country.
On September 12, 2018 El Salvador’s former President Antonio Saca, 53, was sentenced to prison for ten years, after he pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering involving more than $300 million in public funds. Furthermore, in September Guatemala’s Highest Court ruled that President Jimmy Morales cannot shut down the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala or CICIG that has accused him of corruption, including the acceptance over $1 million in illegal campaign contributions.
In this country, both the latest Auditor General’s Report and the nightly news continue to highlight glaring instances of corruption by Ministers and other senior government officials. As a result of pressure from the Belize National Teachers’ Union during their 11 days strike for good governance, the UDP administration even signed onto the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Nevertheless, unlike in El Salvador and Guatemala not a single public official has been prosecuted for the embezzlement of millions of dollars from this country.
To curb corruption at home, the Belizean people must demand that anti-corruption bodies, that are really rubber stamps for the government, be reorganized to hold Ministers and other public officials responsible for theft of the nation’s resources.
For success in the fight against corruption parliament should approve suitable budgets for The Integrity Commission, the Public Accounts Committee, and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to carry out their duties effectively. Those bodies should be chaired by a member of the Opposition, and the government should not have the majority of seats on their boards to undermine their work. Parliament should also approve adequate budgets for both the Auditor General and the Contractor General to carry out their responsibilities of ensuring that the resources of the country are used in the best interest of the Belizean people. In the fight against malfeasance, both the Auditor General and the Contractor General should be protected from arbitrary dismissal for doing their jobs in an impartial way. It should also be mandatory that within nine months after the financial, each of those senior managers submitted a yearly report to the National Assembly for public debate to ensure value for the funds and other resources expended.
With the support of the support of the Opposition, the social partners, specifically the churches, the unions, and the business community and all other concerned organizations in the country Belizeans should demand that Ministers and other public officials, who are accused of corruption be relieved of their post until a complete and thorough investigation in conducted into the alleged wrong doings. If found guilty such as persons should be dismissed from Cabinet or other government post, and where possible they should be prosecuted for stealing the funds and other resources of the country.
In the fight against corruption, it’s important that an officer’s appointment or removal as Commissioner of Police requires at least 2/3 support of the members of the House of Representatives. That is a necessary to assure the COMPOL job security as the police prosecutes criminals in the corridors of power in Belmopan as vigorously as they prosecute low level criminals on the street.
As it is now the case in El Salvador, Guatemala, and many other country’s Ministers and other public officials who are found guilty of theft of government assets in Belize should be given the maximum time at her Majesty’s Prison on the Burrel Boom Hattieville Road. The ill-gotten wealth of those convicted criminals, who wielded vast power in the corridors of the capital, should also be confiscated and used for the benefit of marginalized communities across the country as should have been done from the beginning.
With those and other undertakings in a true fight against corruption in Belize, the direct involvement of Ministers and other high government officials in criminal activities such the Immigration scandal, murder, extortion, hustling at the Belize Airport Authority, drug trafficking, theft of funds for low-cost housing, swindling of Crown Lands, $70 million in bogus land compensation, and the continuous embezzlement of public funds with the bloated contracts for the Chetumal Boulevard and other projects will mostly be a thing of the past instead of daily occurrences.