“Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” –Stephen Covey.
By Gilroy Usher, Standard Bearer for Port Loyola
The Opposition People’s United Party has taken the government to court to ask the Judicial Branch of Government to condemn it’s spending of $1.3 Billion including over $400 Million of Petrocaribe funds with absolutely no accountability to parliament prior to and after the spending of those monies as required by the law. The Opposition is also asking the court to order the administration to cease and desist from the unauthorized spending immediately and to give a full account to the House for the tens of millions of dollars it has spent without authorization and accountability each fiscal year since 2008.
To promote transparency and accountability and reduce corruption in government the Finance and Audit Reform Act was passed in 2005. The act specifically states that to spend $10 Million or more than the amount budgeted for a fiscal year, the government must first get approval for such funds from parliament with a supplementary budget.
To deal with unforeseen circumstances $10 Million is set aside in the budget as a standby emergency fund to deal with hurricane, flooding, drought, fire, road, or other things that must be dealt with immediately. Once those emergency funds are used, there should be a discussion about its specific use in the next sitting of the House followed by the immediate replenishing of the standby emergency fund.
This year when farmers lost over $50 Million in crops due to a severe drought, the government only assisted them with $2 Million. It could have obtained that $2 Million from the standby emergency fund that should be available throughout a fiscal year.
There was no emergency situation for government’s total unauthorized spending of approximately $1.3 Billion for the past eleven years including millions from oil and other exports as well local everyday taxes, and loans from Venezuela and other countries.
Both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister among other government officials have stated publicly that there is huge corruption in government. Such massive spending with absolutely no accountability to the House prior to or after the fact is one of the main reasons why numerous ministers and their cronies are able to rob the country of millions of dollars every single month.
The Opposition had no choice but to apply to court to try and stop this continuous and unlawful spending of millions of dollars of the people’s money with absolutely no accountability or check and balance from parliament or any other body. That’s because the government simply uses its majority control of the House, ignores the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and the Senate to block any discussion of the matter or other major wrong doings by members of Cabinet.
The Belizean people have every right to demand an end to this totally unauthorized spending of millions of dollars of public funds, because it enables ministers and their cronies to easily embezzle millions of dollars that are largely loan funds they have to repay. Secondly the communities suffers when millions of dollars for house lots, proper housing, job creation, better health care, improved law enforcement, and better roads among other things end up in the pockets of crooked ministers.
When they were in the Opposition the now Prime Minister and the UDP flogged the then government unceasingly for using $20 Million gifted from Venezuela to settle a debt with Universal Health Services without authorization from the House. In condemning corruption and the unauthorized use of public funds prior to the 2008 general election, Barrow, the then Opposition Leader said that he had a two sided machete once in government he would use it to cut of the least whiff of corruption as it reared its ugly head.
Now in court the UDP government has admitted to spending $1.3 Billion or $1,300 Million with absolutely no prior approval from the House and absolutely no accountability from any other body after the fact. .
The enormity of the corruption in Government was exposed in court when during cross-examination the Financial Secretary agreed that the Auditor’s General report for 2012 /2013 was correct when it stated that government spent $100 Million it that fiscal year with absolutely no prior approval from Parliament and has never accounted to anyone for spending even a dollar of so much of the people’s money.
The people haven’t felt all those massive unauthorized spending with improvement in their lives; only the Ministers, their cronies, and the wind knows where all those funds went.
At best, this administration wants to spend millions of dollars without prior debate in the House, then five or more years later past a supplementary budget for that huge unauthorized spending in 5 minutes with absolutely no debate or explanation in parliament of exactly how such monies were spent. Master crooks.
This country will only develop for the benefit of all Belizeans with transparency and proper accountability in spending of the people’s money. Any PM and his Ministers must obey the laws of the country like everyone else. The people demand nothing less.