The Senate met today in Belmopan. One of the matters debated was the reappointment of Lionel Arzu as the Ombudsman. Arzu is being reappointed for a period of one year beginning January 1, 2016. The Government is satisfied with Arzu’s performance however the opposition is not. Today PUP Senator, Lisa Shoman share her views.
“Here it is that we say that we are satisfied that Mr.Lionell Arzu is a fit and proper person to be re-appointed Ombudsman. How are we to be satisfied Mr.President? No one has come here to give us any paper, any report, to say that these are the things that the Ombudsman has done in the last three years so that we feel comfortable that he is in fact the right person who should be reappointed. Other than that all we have to fall back on are the prescriptions of the act and one of the interesting things there in the act is that the Ombudsman is someone who really should have some measure of security of tenure and so the normal period of time for appointment is three years. If the Ombudsman is a fit and proper person to be appointed why are we looking at reappointing only for a one year period? There is no answer to that, we really haven’t been told and I was really hoping that my friend the leader of government business would have come to say that this guy is the right guy because in addition to putting in the proper reports that he is supposed to put in this is what he has done, he’s been able to resolve all these issues, he’s up there in the media, people know that he is there for them and none of that is being presented to us.
She had support from the Senator representing the Private Sector, Mark Lizzaraga.
“Like Senator Shoman one of the few comments I had was that that person should have security of tenure, certainly this one year appointment does not give him the total independence that this office deserves and I recall last year’s budget session that the concerns from both the Ombudsman and the Contractor General their offices are very limited so I would take this opportunity now that if we are going to be appointing these people because they are doing such a good job then let us give them the tools that they really need to do the PR, the media campaign so that people know what the services are that the officer and that they offer and that they are able to deliver on what it is that the law speaks to in reference to their appointments and their office.”
Senator for Government business, Godwin Hulse rebutted Senator Shoman’s comments, saying that the Ombudsman report has been tabled in the House.
“As I recall the reports of the Ombudsman have come to this house, he is current with his reports and therein details the work that he does on an annual basis. I also know that the first time the term Ombudsman hit our country there was a lot of discussion around it, where it came from. The first was Mr.Paul Rodriguez and then when Ms.Cynthia Pitts was appointed there was all sorts of talk as to whether she should be called Ombudsman but by that time Belizeans were familiar with the work of the Ombudsman, what he does, that he is the person to call when you have a difficulty with your government or any public authority and he tries to mediate that situation. I really think that because it is a reappointment and there has been no adverse criticism or comments or discussion with respect to his performance had those been tabled or we had heard some consistent reports that he was inefficient, incapable I think the appointment for another year is in order.”
Also being reappointed is Godwin Arzu as the Contractor General for a period of three years.