Senior Immigration Officer Highlights Errors in AG’s Audit Report

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Updated: February 8, 2017

Career Public Service officer, Edgar Cano, was today questioned by the Senate Special Select Committee in Belmopan. Cano was the port commander at Belize’s western border before being transferred to Belmopan in August 1 2013. Before the drilling began, Cano pointed out to the Committee that since the Auditor General’s report covers up to September 30, 2013, he could only answer queries relating to the two months period that he was stationed in Belmopan. However in the report, the Auditor General quotes one Vernon Leslie who stated that despite the fact that eight visa stickers were missing, Cano approved visa numbers to be sold to applicants without a visa sticker. According to Cano, what the Auditor General stated is misleading because he was not in office when that approval was given.

EDGAR CANO

“What I can say, and I don’t see it mentioned anywhere in the audit report that I was on vacation leave when that incident happened. I don’t see it any at all in the audit report and I think that should have been included in the report as well. I was out from the 12th to the 23rd and then I returned to duty on the 4th…”

ALDO SALAZAR

“From the 12th to the 23rd of?”

EDGAR CANO

“December and then there was an extension and I reported to duty on the 4th of January. I have copies of those here.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“Okay I understand that but the question is whether or not you did give approval for visas to be issued without the stickers, whether it was at another time or another point. I understand that you were out but my question is whether you gave approval.”

EDGAR CANO

“No sir.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“So the AG’s report the AG is wrong?”

EDGAR CANO

“Well I didn’t give any approval in writing, none at all.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“This is where the Auditor General got it from, “Vernon Leslie said the decision to issue Belize visas without the stickers was approved by OIC E Cano. Was done for two reasons, primarily to give the investigation team sufficient time to find the perpetrators, secondly to avoid excessive revenue loss.” I can understand the thought process if that is the case to avoid revenue loss etc. “OIC Cano was reluctant to issue the visas without stickers but eventually he gave the approval. In doing this we were given ample time to find out what occurred and we avoided revenue loss.” So what you are saying is that if Vernon Leslie said this he is being untruthful?”

EDGAR CANO

“Sir I gave no approval to Vernon Leslie, I gave nothing in writing to him I was on vacation leave and that is his statement or his declaration but I gave none to Vernon Leslie I was out.”

ELENA SMITH

“You did not go to your work place despite being on vacation?”

EDGAR CANO

“I did not report it I was on vacation”

ELENA SMITH

“So you did not go into work any at all during that period?”

EDGAR CANO

“During that period no.”

ELENA SMITH

“Was there an investigation carried out by the Ministry of the Public Service on this matter?”

EDGAR CANO

“Yes.”

ELENA SMITH

“To which you had to be there?”

EDGAR CANO

“Yes.”

ELENA SMITH

“Was it not determined during that investigation that you had in fact gone into work during the period mentioned here ?”

EDGAR CANO

“Repeat that question.”

ELENA SMITH

“Was it not determined during that investigation that you had indeed gone to work during the period mentioned here?”

EDGAR CANO

“No, none at all.”

ELENA SMITH

“So there was no query as to whether you could have given approval despite being on vacation?”

EDGAR CANO

“I could not give approval and I would not give any approval for such.”

And while Cano says he gave no such approval, former Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Immigration, Candelaria Saldivar Morter shed some light on the situation. According to Saldivar Morter, the matter was taken before the Public Service Commission and one officer was held responsible for the missing visa foils.

CANDELARIA SALDIVAR

“I actually took the case of the missing stickers to the commission.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“What commission is that ?”

CANDELARIA SALDIVAR

“The Public Service Commission.”

ALDO SALDIVAR

“Who did you take to appear before the commission for disciplinary action?”

CANDELARIA SALDIVAR

“For disciplinary action we took Mr.Mark Tench.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“Why did you take him?”

CANDELARIA SALDIVAR

“Because based on the information provided to the Ministry by the department Mr.Tench was identified as the person responsible who was negligent. I have to explain to you all that in order for any file to go to the Public Services commission the department would have to file to the Ministry that some wrong doing was done and based on the information provided by the department it is then that the ministry would decide whether there is a case for the commission or not and then it is taken to the Public Services Commission for any disciplinary proceedings against the officer.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“I just want clarification its not that the Ministry threw up its hands and didn’t do anything but you did take Mr.Tench…”

CANDELARIA SALDIVAR

“We took Mr.Tench and he was actually charged for the value of the stickers as recommended by the Public Services Commission.”

ALDO SALAZAR

“And are you aware what occurred with that disciplinary hearing?”

CANDELARIA SALDIVAR

“He was charged for negligence because the financial regulations talks clearly about the handing over and taking over of documents. Charged meaning that he had to pay the value of the stickers and we had recommended the highest value I can’t recall what the highest value was at the time we had recommended the highest value of the sticker.”

Cano, who is currently the Port Commander of the Phillip Goldson International Airport, was accompanied by attorney Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley while Saldivar Morter appeared without any legal counsel.