The amendment to the Contractor General Bill was another issue that caused much debate in the Sitting of the Senate yesterday. The root of the bill is to amend the law that states that after the contractor general’s tenure, he cannot return to serve as a public officer. The inability to work in the public sector has greatly hindered the process of finding a new contractor general. Senator Mark Lizarraga had his complaints, not about the bill itself, but about the office of the contractor general.
Senator Mark Lizarraga: “We are seeking to pass a law instead of strengthening that office to weaken it because the way it’s set up right now the person was not able to function. Today we are missing an opportunity. Today we are missing an opportunity to strengthen an office that needs strengthening. Today the piece of legislation that we are seeking to pass is opening the door for more inefficiency. You know we have an agreement with CARICOM where if we can’t find individuals here in Belize that want to take the job that we can go abroad? Have we really truly searched for people and if we haven’t found the people that we need to fill this post we need to ask ourselves why is it that only one person has applied for the job and are we changing the law just because one person applied for the job to suit that one person so that he can work with government afterwards if he wants to? This post, these people get paid as much as a Supreme Court judge, they’re protected under law like a Supreme Court judge, they get pension in seven years, full pension. The law intends that this person be isolated as much as possible, insulated so to speak from the administration- that is the purpose of this law, delink the Contractor General from the current administration.”
Attorney General, Michael Peyrifitte stated that his office has extreme difficulty with finding candidates who are interested in the position.
Senator Michael Peyrefitte: “All we are trying to do here today is to broaden the base, broaden the capacity as to who can be Contractor General. Now if you’re saying, Senator Lizarraga, that there are no public officers in the entire public service who is capable of being an honest Contractor General and then going to being an honest public officer I totally disagree with you; there are, there are several people. From a policy perspective we did not believe that a public servant should be disenfranchised from being a public servant in the future just because they took the job of Contractor General. And I will tell you it’s been very uncomfortable for us at the Attorney General’s Ministry because we have not been doing their job, because we are not mandated by law to do their job. All we are able to do is say look from the looks of his contract it seems as if though, if there was a Contractor General given all the parameters that we have to cross that it’s a legal contract. But that’s all we can do. We want a Contractor General we’ve been desperately in search for a Contractor General, if you know anybody who wants to be one Senator Lizarraga please tell them call me, it would be less work for the Attorney General’s Ministry I can tell you that. Now you talk about going to foreign countries in CARICOM, if we bring a person who is a foreigner then you’re going to hear we brought someone who we can corrupt with no ties to the country and so therefore bringing in somebody we can control. We want to search for somebody in the country first I make no apologies about that.”
Nevertheless, at the end of the meeting, the bill was still withdrawn. The previous contractor general was Godwin Arzu, whose contract was not renewed after he failed to submit numerous reports over the years.