At the start of the week we told you of the contracts for infrastructural works that were signed at the Ministry of Works in Belmopan on Monday, December 2. There were three contracts. One went to Belize Roadway Construction Company Limited for thirty-eight million dollars to rehabilitate sixteen miles of road from San Ignacio to the Caracol Archaeological Centre via the villages of Cristo Rey and San Antonio. The other contract went to A & N Construction Company Limited for the rehabilitation of the Caracol Road from Georgeville; that contract is for just under fourteen million dollars. The third contract is the largest seen in recent years for a little over one hundred and thirty-three million Belize dollars. This contract was awarded to Imer Hernandez, the nephew of former Government Minister, Gaspar Vega. Imer Hernandez has been in the news on several occasions as he has been given multiple contracts under the Barrow administration and several of his works have been called into question. Today, it was a familiar tune inside the House of Representatives as the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno made it known that if and when the PUP wins the next general election, they would revisit these contracts issued under the current administration. Briceno also noted that he had written to one of the funding agencies, IDB, expressing concerns over the selection of Hernandez’ company.
Hon. John Briceno, Opposition Leader, People’s United Party: “We are very concerned that you have international banks like IDB continuing to give or to allow the Government to manipulate the process, to manipulate the process to be able to give this company more contracts. So we decided that we are going to write a letter to the IDB. So on the 29th of March we wrote a letter to the IDB and this is what we said. I said to the bank “We bring this to the bank’s attention in response to the Prime Minister’s statement in the press where he stated that the awarding of these contracts were done with the approval of the IDB.” and we ended up it says ” We are requesting the IDB to utilize the system it has in place that allows the design of sound development projects, monitor their progress, and measure their results and impact. Belizeans should be better served if this is done in a transparent and accountable manner..” The IDB did respond to our letter and we will be meeting with them very shortly, they have invited us to go to their office. And now you would have thought that this kind of scrutiny, this kind of alleged corruption that is taking place and the bad name that this government is taking, that you’d have put a stop to practice of awarding contracts to this company.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow challenged Briceno’s plan to cancel the contracts considering that there are external factors at play.
Rt.Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “The very fact is that you start off accusing this government of giving all these contracts to Imer, contracts that he does deserve because again you say he’s a worthless contractor but you end up, you end up having to admit that certainly with respect to the last two contracts the contracts have not been given by the United Democratic Party administration these are international contracts awarded by international governments and financial institutions after a process that has to pass the greatest possible degree of internal scrutiny. I’m glad that you called on the British, of all people the British. You are telling the sovereign British Government that you will cancel a contract that they have awarded – because the money for Caracol is coming from them- you will cancel a contract that they have awarded because you are telling them in effect they have awarded an improper contract.”
According to the Minister of Works, Rene Montero, Hernandez will be teaming up with a Mexican construction company to upgrade thirty-six-point two miles of the Coastal Highway. The upgrade includes the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 10 bridges across various creeks and rivers along the highway. The road, which commences at the Coastal Highway/George Price Highway intersection, will have an improved T-junction intersection to improve traffic flow from the newly upgraded road. The end of the Coastal Highway, where it intersects the Hummingbird Highway, will also see major improvement with a new roundabout intersection. Funding agencies for these projects include the British High Commission as well as the Caribbean Development Bank and the OPEC Fund for International Development.