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More ‘Infractions’ in BDF Audit Surface

Last month Love News broke the story of the audit investigation conducted into the Belize Defence Force Fund. For the past few weeks we have been trying to get out hands on the full report and today we received a four-page summary containing facts from the audit report itself. In it, the Auditor General points out questionable financial transaction conducted by Belize Jungle Experience Limited, owned by Lieutenant Charlton Roches, and the German Army Headquarters on behalf of the BDF. Hipolito Novelo reports.

 

HIPOLITO NOVELO- REPORTER 

Without the annexes, the summary is four pages long and it’s entitled, “General Facts Recorded from the Auditor General Report, dated June 7, 2017. The Auditor General and her team conducted a forensic audit into the BDF Fund and they discovered some “infractions that may have occurred by members of the Belize Defence Force”.

The Audit Team zeroed in on a financial transaction involving, Belize Jungle Experience Limited, the Belize Defence Force and the German Army Headquarters.

Annex A shows that $152,442.10 was deposited into the BDF Fund’s bank account on July 1 2016.

Rewind 14 days to Saturday June 17 2016, an invoice for the same amount is reportedly prepared on this day ‘by the BDF Headquarters through the F4 Cell for Jungle Course’.

Annex C shows that it was Lieutenant Colonel Charlton Roches of the BDF who made the

$152,442.10 via a business check numbered 33 into the BDF Fund Account.

The check was by Belize Jungle Experience Limited a company which only has two shareholders and directors; Margaret Flowers and Lieutenant Colonel Charlton Roches.

Belize Jungle Experience Limited was registered on May 16, 2013 and witnessed by Roberto Beltran, a Major in the BDF.

The Auditor General outlines 9 Findings and the most concerning has to do with the figure.

According to the Auditor General, the cost for the German Jungle Training Package was not generated with the “German Army Headquarters directly but through Belize Jungle Experience Ltd. which was controlled by Charlton Roches as majority shareholder”.

The auditor general is suggesting “that in fact a higher figure may have being liaised between the German Army Headquarters and Belize Jungle Experience Ltd. and the Belize Defence Force given only a base cost for what they presented in Invoice dated 17th June 2016.”

The day Love News broke the story; we managed to get a comment from the Chief Executive Officer in the Minister of Defence, Felix Enriquez.

FELIX ENRIQUEZ – C.E.O, Ministry of Defence

“There were several items within the audit that raised eyebrows that we think should not have happened and so we have to deal with it and we will. There were some discrepancies including the one that you mentioned we have conversed with the Auditor General and the officers that conducted the audit so we are aware of the details and we are now making the corrections that we need to make.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO- REPORTER 

“The revelations caught the attention of the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Minister Dean Barrow who told the media on November 1 that the matter must be sorted out.”

DEAN BARROW – PRIME MINISTER 

“Well the whole thing is murky, that’s the rub is that there is a suggestion that parallel enterprises were being run- one in the name of the government and one in the name of this private company it must be sorted out. Clearly, there is the need for a thoroughgoing investigation and I am positive that I certainly will insist that no stone is left unturned to get to the bottom of this. It sounds and looks bad but I guess final judgment must be suspended until the investigation is concluded but investigation there will be.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO- REPORTER 

“That investigation is still on-going while Roches remains on leave.”

LT. COL. STEPHEN ORTEGA -ACTING BDF COMMANDER 

“As the ministry had spoken that this is still an ongoing investigation the audit and everything is still being investigated so I will not comment further on that matter.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“Any timeline in terms of when that investigation might be completed?”

LT. COL. STEPHEN ORTEGA -ACTING BDF COMMANDER 

“I’m not sure I’m not the one conducting the investigation so I’m not sure. So its a very touchy topic to be discussing at this present time because the investigation is still ongoing.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO- REPORTER 

“And while the investigation continues, the Auditor General provided five recommendations one which is that “Lt Col Roches should be questioned about his dealings with the German Army to ascertain how the Jungle Package being offered by the BDF ended up into private arms via a company that he directed.” She also suggests that potential charges against Roches should be ascertained for his “egregious behavior”. It is also recommended that the Financial Intelligence Unit be consulted if “in fact there are civil and or criminal offences that may have been committed.”

FELIX ENRIQUEZ – C.E.O, Ministry of Defence

“We will definitely take any disciplinary measure that we need to take for those that are found responsible and we are also strengthening our internal control measures to ensure that the discrepancies that happened do not reoccur — we are dealing with whoever is supposed to be dealt with and supposed to be disciplined and we are making the internal control measures that we are supposed to make.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO- REPORTER 

“The Auditor General has also recommended that protocols be established as it relates to “ BDF personnel whether acting as themselves or through companies that they are members of to refrain from conducting business transactions once they are actively serving.” Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo”

The report also shows that prior to his revelation, transactions between the BDF and Belize Jungle Experience was conducted in 2015.