Things certainly are heating up as we head into the final stretch of the race to see who emerges victorious in their bid to play the lead role of Ali Baba in the final act of what can best be described as the greatest tragedy in the annals of Belizean History. The end is in sight, and the fallout of the race has been spectacular! The thinly veiled animosity and the hurling of shade and threats is very unbecoming of sitting ministers and those others who aspire to become parliamentarians. The whole ordeal, however, has proven rather informative with the tabling of new reports from the Auditor General. Back in 2015 when Belizeans were promised “the best is yet to come” we certainly could never “imagine the possibilities.” The current administration was elected largely on their biggest promise to curb and extinguish corruption. The promise was to “Enact bills to enforce transparency and accountability in Public Financial Management.” Like most of those campaign promises this one too has been gathering dust on the shelves.
The UDP has enacted ZERO bills to enforce accountability and transparency. In fact they have bent the rules and actually enacted legislature to cover their muddy tracks. Just a few months prior the 2015 elections the UDP rushed the PetroCaribe Loan Motion. This loan motion allowed the GOB absolute power to borrow and spend money from PetroCaribe funds without the approval of the House of Representatives. This motion is in direct contravention of the Finance and Audit Act and also validated any and all spending as from 1st September 2012 which means that over 142M in loans and expenses that were made illegally without the proper consultation and were legitimized in one fell stroke of the pen. Fast forward to November 2019 and we learn of the $100M “slippage” the Financial Secretary is forced to admit happened under his not so careful watch. The supplementary budgets for these monies are just a bit over seven years late in being filed. Belizeans have yet to find out how and where these monies were spent and who ultimately benefited from preferential contracts.
In addition, the GOB has spent most of this term without a Contractor General to oversee and ensure a fair and equitable bidding process. Instead Borrow and the UDP signed a statutory instrument that allows CEOs to approve contracts of up to fifty thousand dollars. Tenders are by invitation in the event that they are over fifty thousand dollars. This has been the method of circumventing the established bidding and tendering process to confer choice multi-million dollar contracts to preferred contractors, cronies and friends and family. These contracts have resulted in inferior projects that have little to do with the purported benefits to the wider Belizean society. In fact they are suspect, and seen more as prizes in return for generous campaign contributions and family retirement funds.
The UDP is far from enforcing transparency and accountability in order to eradicate corruption. In the eloquent words of Teresita Castellanos as a matter of fact encouraged an “entrenched culture of corruption and hustling; milking the cow…from the very top to the very bottom of the ladder.” The scandals at the Immigration Department, again brought to light through the hard work of the Auditor General, have sparked only momentary embarrassment to the UDP. If Senator Salazar cannot be bothered to give us a report on the findings of a yearlong inquiry, we cannot expect any reforms to be forthcoming. Already the Penner issue was not investigated even when a Writ of Mandamus was ordered by the Courts.
The original “hotbed of Corruption” which is the Lands Department is also another sore point for Belizeans. After so many land scams and shady dealings involving the then minister and his family, we see him ready himself for another round of elections. Its business as usual at the UDP headquarters. They have forgotten and put behind all the empty rhetoric they spewed, they have put behind them all the scandals. They make ready for a new general election, a new leader with the same old tricks and the same set of empty promises and lies. They cling to the hope that the memory of the Belizean electorate is short, and that we will not remember, and that we will forgive and we will forget. They seek to wipe the slate clean with their new leaders, but the dirty UDP forget that only a brand new broom sweeps clean!