Belize City Mayor Bernard Wagner came under the political microscope and pressure after it was learned that he endorsed two cheques to himself. While saying it was an irregular practice, he said he did so in order to assist city residents through the Social Assistance Fund. Wagner said that it will no longer be a practice at City Hall. He also said that his council will make serious cutbacks to free handouts as they prepare to launch a new type of fund. According to the Mayor, the City Fund has been designed to empower the city residents.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “We came on the platform of a social infrastructure putting our people first and I felt and our council feels that this program, this social assistance program is not something that we want to continue actually we want to empower our people and that is why within our manifesto we do have that component of launching a city fund. This city fund will be a platform where we introduce small business entrepreneurship funding, a little $500 assistance, very low interest rate probably around 1-2% this will allow our residents to be able to access this funding to get a little cart sell your orange juice, if you want to start your barbershop buy your chair get your machine going and this will be what we want to empower our people to be your own boses. The social assistance program has always been an existing program here; it’s not something that we want to always be encouraging but we have needy people in our city who are hurting and we as a responsible city council have to ensure that we look after our people.”
As part of the council’s initiative, Wagner said that a Municipal Public Accounts Committee will be created and tasked to oversee financial transactions of the council.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “Clearly that mechanism is not a mechanism that works in the public service, they want you to have the individual sing the voucher and that is understandable but no under hand deal, my name and integrity and my council’s name and integrity means so much to us. Actually what we are doing, we campaigned on transparency and accountability and as we speak we are working towards getting the Municipal Public Accounts Committee which in itself serves as a barometer for us to say ‘we want to work in a transparent way, we want to work in an accountable way.”
Reporter: Do you have a timeline when the Municipal Public Accounts Committee will come on board?
Bernard Wager, Mayor of Belize City: “Certainly within the first 100 days we plan to have that launched.”
Wagner took office a little over a month ago.