$100 Million Missing

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On Wednesday, the nation was shocked to learn, from no less than the Financial Secretary of this country, that the Barrow Administration had spent approximately $100 MILLION dollars, revealed in the 2012/2013 Auditor General’s Report, without getting permission in the House, and without revealing how that money was spent.

This outrageous breach of financial regulations and reckless use of the people’s money should come as no surprise to many Belizeans. Who can forget the days of Petrocaribe plenty, when the Barrow administration rolled through approximately half a BILLION in Petrocaribe monies from Venezuela? Who can forget the Petro-fetes and Petro-giveaways leading up to election? There were even a song about Petrocaribe money, thanks to the feeding frenzy of the Barrow administration. Remember the Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Faber using Petrocaribe money to take a bunch of his supporters to Corozal where he boasted that they gorged themselves on flowing rum and pibil tacos.

Mr. Barrow, in his greed for power and hubris, used Petrocaribe money, which taxpayers have to pay back, like it was the UDP’s cookie jar. That money was a gift from the Venezuelan government specifically for poverty alleviation, for education programs, for social assistance programs, for health programs and infrastructure. Five hundred million dollars gone, and not one classroom as built, not one health center was built, and poverty is higher than it has ever been.

Mr. Barrow has operated, in office, as if he is king of the world, but now he will have to answer to the Court of the land for spending monies before going to the House for approval. As Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr. Barrow presided over an egregious breach of the financial regulations. Under the UDP, Mr. Barrow spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and then came to the House long after to seek approval for spending monies he had already spent.

And it gets much worse. On the stand, in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight revealed the heights of incompetence which has characterized this UDP administration. Waight revealed that the government spent $100 MILLION taxpayer dollars, revealed in the 2012/2013 Auditor-General’s Report, and never went to the House for approval. That quite simply means that the UDP government spent $100 MILLION, and has never accounted for the spending of that money.

Bizarrely, the FinSec referred to it as a simple ‘slippage’, stating – “Indeed, and I use the word slippage, we have not put the supplementary request to the House. $100M may sound like a lot of money, but it’s about 10% of the overall budget for that year.” According to Waight, when they did realize, years after, they put a team together to take a supplementary allocation bill to the House (again seeking approval after the money was long gone), but because the Ministry is small, they haven’t yet gotten a chance to deal with it.

Mr. Barrow and his motley crew must answer for breaking the law. There are very clear financial regulations which govern the spending of the people’s money. This is not Mr. Barrow’s money. This is not the UDP’s money. This is taxpayers’ money which taxpayers will have to pay back, even though they have no idea how that money was spent.

The PUP is to be commended for demanding that the government account for every cent of the people’s money that is spent. We applaud the Party Leader, Hon. John Briceño and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Julius Espat. This will not be swept under the rug. This will not be allowed to go away.