A few weeks ago several electronic documents relating to the finances of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) were released. The documents included audited financial statements and minutes of meetings of the commissioners of the PUC. The documents showed questionable financial transactions and today at a press conference, Chairman of the PUC decided to respond to several points highlighted by the media. One of those points was that the PUC has not withheld and paid income taxes, as required by law, in respect of bonuses and gratuities.
JOHN AVERY, CHAIRMAN, PUC
“Withholding taxes again I must say that this is something that I have to agree with the auditor when he says there were certain taxes that we didn’t withhold and I will say that in this instance it is not only the PUC. I think a lot of people in Belize are of the opinion that once you are employed anywhere that is related to government; gratuities are not taxable. The original intent for gratuity is so that these entities can compete with the private sector in terms of recruitment. I mean consider who we have to compete with to higher people. BEL, BTL, BWS these places; they have so much more resources than us and not only that the expertise that we need. The people working in these places don’t want to regulate utilities. A senior engineer his entire life wanted to practice engineering so for us to say get a good engineer from BEL to move over to PUC, I don’t think we can pay them enough, in fact recently we had and Electricity Director and BEL made them an offer we couldn’t match and then it is not only that he told us plain even if we could match it that has been his career choice all his life. If he had to choose between the two he would go to BEL; anyway so we are under the impression that gratuities offered to contract officers are not taxable. We understand that to be so now; the effect will be is that we won’t give contracts for gratuities any more we will probably just instead that that compensation is included in the salaries because otherwise there is no real benefit or real advantage to paying gratuities to anyone if it’s going to be taxable just as your salaries is taxable. That has actually be an impediment to attracting people because then we are advertising a lower salary.”
We will have more of Avery’s response in tomorrow newscast.