The People’s United Party (PUP) has declared that a full audit of the Petro-Caribe funds be made before they are presented with any amendments to the constitution. The demand comes following Friday’s ruling by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. The CJ’s ruled that the government’s spending of $1.3 billion was unconstitutional during the period 2012/2013 from the PetroCaribe Funds. According to PUP leader John Briceno, the party will be meeting with its parliamentarians to discuss the matter further and to decide how they will handle the amendments to the Constitution that the Chief Justice ordered.
Hon. John Briceno, Opposition Leader, People’s United Party: “He is the first Prime Minister in the history of Belize that has been taken to court and found guilty that he has broken the law. The Chief Justice now is saying now that he needs to fix it an the only way you can fix this is by amending the constitution to be able to make this illegal action that they did, legal. What’s the position of the PUP ? Well I’m going to be meeting with my parliamentarians tomorrow to have a discussion on that but what is important for us is that it’s not just about going to the House and amending the constitution and make that legal, we need a thorough, a full independent audit of those monies. That whole $1.5 billion dollars that was spent especially on the monies from PetroCaribe. What a lot of Belizeans have forgotten is that the government set up what you call a special vehicle, he set up a private company called Belize Infrastructure Limited, BIL, and they took the PetroCaribe money and put it there because there they don’t have to follow all the rules and regulations of the government in giving out contracts. So it’s an obvious way to circumvent the government, the rules and regulations of the government, put it there and that is where they gave all their cronies millions of dollars worth of contracts. I mean you could look all over the country, the basketball court in Punta Gorda a few weeks ago it was raining hard and the roof was leaking I saw pictures with buckets where they were trying to hold in the water. The Marshalleck Football Stadium in Benque Viejo del Carmen $5 million has been spent and it was nowhere done and they’re spending another $2 million to try to fix it. Look at the road that goes through Orange Walk Town, that was built by Imer Hernandez that road is breaking up, it’s sinking. I mean $5 million plus gone there and there is the Lake Independence Boulevard that continues to sink and the list can go on. We need a proper independent audit into those monies, how it was spent before they even come to us to try to see if we’re going to support them in amending the constitution.”
In the Finance and Audit Reform Act, supplementary spending must go to the House for approval. In multiple instances, this was not done. The irony, according to John Briceno is that it was the Prime Minister that brought the Act about.
Hon. John Briceno, Opposition Leader: “Also what is very very important and they say you know when you put the rope around your neck that is exactly what the Prime Minister has done. In 2010 this very same Prime Minister amended the Finance and Audit Reform Act and he made it a criminal act for any act against the Finance and Reform Act. It said if you do not follow the law under the Finance and Reform Act now you can be taken to court and be charged criminally. Under that they can do they can charge you, they can put you in jail for up to two years and they can charge you up to ten thousand dollars in fines; he made that amendment. He changed the law and now here we find now that the very same Prime Minister the Right Honorable Dean Barrow who changed the law now has been guilty of breaking the law. So we’re going to see what happens there.”