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PM: “There has been no violation of the Finance and Audit Act”

A press conference on the Faber’s Road Reconstruction Project took place this afternoon in Belize City. At the head table were Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Minister of Works, Rene Montero, CEO in the Ministry of Works, Erroll Gentle and Chartered Engineer, Evondale Moody. The press conference was in response to many concerns raised by various groups with regards to the contract. So far, the Belize National Teachers’ Union, the People’s United Party, the Belize Progressive Party and Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, have described the contract awarded to Imer Hernandez as bloated. COLA has stated that they believe that the Government, in awarding the contract, was acting against the Finance and Audit Act. Prime Minister Dean Barrow responded.


Rt.Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister

“Some of the allegations that have been levelled, I saw where a certain activist group and its lawyer declared that the signing of this contract is in breach of the Finance and Audit Act. I have the Finance and Audit Act here and let me be kind and say simply that I don’t agree with that characterization of what has happened and I am positive that the facts, neither the facts nor the law as set out in the Finance and Audit Act can support that sort of a change. When you look at the Finance and Audit Act it does say that with respect to the open tendering procedure any – let me be sure that I find the exact passage- ‘any procurement or sale contract of or above $5 million shall be subject to the open tendering procedure and then in subsection six of this section nineteen ‘a contract referred to in section 5 shall be laid by the Minister on the table of both houses on the national assembly’ and I think the lawyer stopped right there when he was referring to this passage, didn’t go on to read what the rest of sentence says, let me start it again for the sake of completeness. “The contract referred to subsection five shall be laid by the Minister on the table of both houses of the national assembly within one month of its execution.’ there’s no requirement that you go to the house before. Each house of the national assembly shall examine the contract and other documents submitted to the house by the minister in order for the house to determine if the contract complies with subsection 5, but if such contract does not comply with that subsection such noncompliance shall not prejudice the rights of the party to the contract unless the party knew before entering into the contract that it did not comply with the requirements of the subsection.’ So the first point, there has been no violation of the Finance and Audit Act by the failure to go to the house before the signing of the contract because there is no such requirement that that be done and with respect to the requirement that once the open tendering procedure is used you go to the house within a month after the signing if of course, you don’t use the open tendering procedure then you don’t go to the house because the purpose of going to the house if for both chambers to determine whether there has been proper compliance with the open tendering procedure but you are not obliged to employ the open tendering procedure. If you go on and read further in the Finance and Audit Act you will see that section 21 has as its marginal note ‘limited tendering procedure the government shall use the limited tendering procedure for procurement or sale in the following circumstances’ and I skip to the one that’s more relevant for us ‘where for reasons of extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable by the government or in the public interest the goods or services cannot be procured in time using the open tendering procedure or the selective tendering procedure.”