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Mayor Wagner says he does not support the awarding of contracts to family members of the council

During our discussion with Mayor Bernad Wagner, we asked him about a contract that was awarded to a company connected councilor Edmund Kwan. In recent weeks, Michael Novelo, the councilor responsible for cemeteries, alleged that the council was in the process of awarding a contract for the expansion of the Eternal Gardens Cemetery to a company owned by the father of Councilor Kaya Cattouse. However, that contract never materialized. And, while Novelo went on record to say that he would never support the awarding of a contract to a fellow councilor or family members, meeting minutes show that he did support the awarding of a contract to complete works for the cemetery to a company linked to Kwan. The contract reportedly saw a company by name of Gel-Quarry Limited receive payment of $45,373 to expand the cemetery with a bulldozer and fill material In October of 2021. According to Mayor Wagner, the questionable decision to award Gel-Quarry Limited the contract was completely Novelo’s idea. 

Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “When motions are brought to the caucus it’s a democratic process that ensues in the caucus where the motion is presented by the motioner, it is second and then as the chair of the caucus I just essentially chair the discussion and the discourse and then I put the question and whenever I do that I would normally just try to guide the process a bit but at the end of the day it’s the collective decision of the council that determines what motions are pushed through or those that fall on the wayside and at the end of the day it’s a collective. You have to get the majority and so in respect to that matter I would much rather you ask the councilor Novelo on that issue. I believe it was he that brought that motion so he will have to be able to answer whether or not he sees it as being an act of what you call it conflict of interest. Again we are guided – and I have that right here in front of us in respect of the control of expenditures. All expenditures is sanctioned by the Prime Minister who is the finance minister. Every August we are asked to put forward our budget, what we expect to spend, which areas we expect to spend those monies. We consult with our councilors and the different departments and we compile those figures and we send it to our local government arm who it then becomes a part of the budget process in the house. The Prime Minister thereafter would send us a warrant saying that you are authorized to spend x amount of dollars under this line item, or x amount of dollars under that line item. And so essentially the council has that authority to be able through the city administrator to determine how those monies and to which vendors those works are carried out. You never want to be involved where a family member is a recipient of a contract. The act speaks that in the event that arises you as the councilor would recuse yourself from the caucus especially as it comes to that matter and so I don’t support that type of activity there.”