As the Briceno administration seeks Parliamentarian approval to acquire additional funds for the remaining of the fiscal year, several instances of mismanaged funds are being uncovered in various ministries. Minister of Tourism Anthony Mahler cited some of those instances where hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid out to private contractors with no proof of equivalent exchange in works or services.
Minister of Infrastructure Development Julius Espat had his list of mismanaged funds to present, specifically surrounding the Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL) which was managed by Christy Maestre since its inception.
Hon. Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “BIL was a vehicle used for the misappropriation of public monies without public scrutiny. We found that over $100 million dollars – over $100 million dollars because we have not been able to fully identify and certify all the expenses up to date but as far as we have seen $100 million dollars has been spent through BIL. 80% of the contracts awarded through BIL were given to one specific contractor. That contractor Madam Speaker goes under the name of IE. The first thing they did was to rent an luxurious office space in the building beside the offices of IE and the building is also owned by them or their affiliate. So the first thing that this employee- Matalon Building – we’re looking at about $45,000 a year. Subsequent to renting the office then all of a sudden all the contracts not only the contracts of construction but the design or the design build or just the construction or maybe a partnership was awarded to the same company which she came from without the necessary financial scrutiny that is needed. We found out that the general manager made purchases, made decisions that could only be decisions that a board would give permission to do or the Ministry of Finance would give permission to do. We have subsequently seen documentation of past board members that are not aware of major purchases being done by the general manager. But what was scary and I would like the auditors, the GST, the income tax department to be aware of, the Financial Intelligence Unit, we ask them for financials of this company, a letter was provided to us stating that they have financials for the year 2019 to 2020 but they saw it in their interest to purge was the word used, my word would be destroy but it’s the same end result, they found it in their interest to purge and destroy all financials before 2019 because ? They said they didn’t have space. Now the laws of Belize are quite clear, any private company should have their financials for the last six years. I think, I’m not an accountant, but I believe that that was also amended Madam Speaker where you have to go back now to twelve years I’m not exactly sure if it’s six- I know it’s six for sure but I distinctly remember seeing some amendment that it goes to twelve. But this private company decides that they will burn it up. They used the word purge. Apart from that Madam Speaker we still can’t get out hands on proper documentation for some of the projects that were done, we still can’t get out hands on some of the contracts that were done, we still can’t get our hands the full financial implications that how much this has cost Belize. But what have we done since we encountered these problem ? With the knowledge and blessing and guidance from the Cabinet the Prime Minister appointed a new board for a temporary time. The new board was given a directive, the new board has made certain decisions that Cabinet has had no objections to. The new board has found it in the interest of the people of Belize to suspend all business activities that BIL is doing for the next six months. The new Board of Directors have decided that they will suspend the General Manager upon a financial investigation of her actions.”