The first sitting of the Senate for the year occurred today in Belmopan where Senators debated one bill. That bill is the General Revenue Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2017. The bill seeks to appropriate millions of dollars spent during 2016 and 2017. Senators were asked to approve thirteen point five million dollars which were spent after Hurricane Earl swept across Belize on August 4, 2016. PUP Senators, Eamon Courtenay, Valerie Woods and Paul Thompson, questioned the timing of the bill. It was pointed out by Senator Courtenay that for those monies to have been lawfully spent, the Minister of Finance, under Section five of the Finance and Audit Reform Act, had to issue a special warrant.
EAMON COURTENAY, LEAD PUP SENATOR
“Since there has been no appropriation for these expenditures the only way it can lawfully be done is by a special warrant under section 5 of the Finance and Audit Reform Act and any such special warrant must be confirmed within three months of its issuance and in any event it cannot exceed 10% of the amount that has been approved under any of the heads; it is manifest that what we are talking about here when one looks at the schedule that the amounts one, more than three months after the special warrant would have been issued and significantly in excess of 10% of the amount that may have been approved. Certainly, we on this side of the house do not know the details of any of these expenditures. What is alarming is that a significant amount of these expenditures relate to Hurricane Earl. Hurricane Earl made landfall on the 4th of August 2016, we are in January 2018 and millions upon millions of dollars have apparently been spent on Hurricane Earl clean up and general aid.”
VALERIE WOODS, PUP SENATOR
“On August 21st, 2016, a year before in its correct fiscal year, we were asked to approve for cleanup $750,000. I believe the one today is $175,000. So we approved $750,000 27 days after the Hurricane- we approved it in this Senate for cleanup and you have the financial secretary saying one year later this government spent an additional $175,000 for cleanup of that same hurricane? What areas did we miss? What areas were not cleaned up? That is all we want to know. The money has already been spent, could we at least know what areas we forgot to clean up one year after the Hurricane?”
PAUL THOMPSON, PUP SENATOR
“I don’t know why we bother coming to the Senate to debate these bills or it goes to the House of Representatives. This Administration will do what it wants whenever it wants and however it wants. Might as well they just collect the taxes and that is it, we don’t debate anything. Why do we have a budget? Why do we have a budget debate? This administration is brazenly breaking the law, this is not a supplementary budget this is a suppository budget.”