3 Queen Street, P.O. Box 506
Tel: 223-2428, 224-5886 Fax: 223-3476
Tuesday, November 24, 2008 --- After meeting this morning at Independence Hall, the National Executive of the People’s United Party announces the following unanimous decisions:
1. The Standard-bearer Convention hosted on Sunday 23 November 2008 in the Corozal South East Constituency is NULL AND VOID and in constitutional breach of the National Executive’s direction. Following the Municipal Elections in March 2009, the Party will announce the time table for standard-bearer conventions in all 31 constituencies, at which time Corozal South East will be required to have its official convention.
5. A Special Committee has been appointed by the National Executive to review party and government-related conduct of PUP leaders during the past decade. This Committee will review controversial decisions they took, in the context of the recent Miranda Report and taking into special consideration the Party’s Aims, Principles and Objectives. The Committee will require Party leaders to give a proper account for their conduct in this period.
And that seems to leave the executive in quite a pickle, because they can’t physically stop the convention, and so after it proceeds and Marin Jr. is endorsed – then what next? It seems John Briceno’s leadership will then either have to make peace or renew hostilities against the breakaway division.
And doing that means empowering or at least emboldening the old guard. And we say that because reliable reports say that former Leader Said Musa has been invited to speak at Sunday’s convention. That’s a report – and while it could not be confirmed – it raises so many politically intriguing possibilities – that it’s hard to overlook.
But by Sunday we will know and by Monday, we’ll have the breakdown of what happened and what it means for the PUP.
1. The PUP recognizes the concerns expressed by the ad hoc group of PUP supporters calling themselves “PUPs Against Injustice;” the Party welcomes their activism and their loyalty to the Party by acting in the Party’s name.
Posted: 18/11/2008 - 02:13 PM
Author: Adele Ramos
In the recent months, the financial management of municipalities has become a cause of growing concern amid allegations of corruption in local government, but unlike the audit reports of Central Government, which are open and public documents, local government audits – no less controversial – are not nearly as easy to access.
In fact, a journalist in San Pedro, San Pedro Sun’s Kainie Manuel, had to jump many hurdles before she could get the privilege of seeing financial documents. She was told to wait two weeks, then to write a letter, after which she was given a date, and then due to a postponement, a new date, to go to the Town Council to see the document.
She had only an hour to review six years of financials, she was told – no pictures, no photocopies were allowed, and she had to read under the supervision of the town administrator and accountant, who were there, presumably, to answer any questions she might have about the report. The journalist was allowed to take notes on the audit report.
The Opposition People’s United Party’s Belize Rural South arm says that there are serious concerns over allegations of misappropriation and mismanagement of San Pedro Town Council’s funds.
"I can explain ..." When Mayor, when? The people have a right to know how their money is being spent.
But San Pedro Mayor Elsa Paz told our newspaper that the Council was actually run by the PUP for the first three years of the report, and by her party only for the past three years. According to Paz, the report highlights more questions about the council’s financial management for the period for which the PUP ran the San Pedro Town Council, though she admitted that there are questions regarding financial dealings under her tenure.
While the politicians debate the contents of the 2001-2006 audit of San Pedro Town Hall, which collects $3.2 million in revenues annually, the professionals at the Office of the Auditor General have, indeed, raised some legitimate concerns in their audit.
Auditor General Edmund Zuniga told Amandala today that in the audit reports submitted for Central Government and tabled in the House of Representatives on Friday, there were comments about audits for San Pedro and Corozal, indicating that there may have been areas of excessive expenditures – spending that was not justified.
Paz contends that there are answers for any question that the public might raise on the report.
“For me, there is nothing that compromises the council,” Mayor Paz told us, insisting that there were “no serious allegations.”
One of the most glaring irregularities reported is the fact that the area representative was getting paid by the town council. Regarding reports that Belize Rural South area representative, Manuel Heredia, who is currently the Minister of Tourism, was being paid a “stipend” from the San Pedro Town Council’s coffers, Paz confirms that he was, but she claims that Heredia was actually working for the Council. She claims that Heredia was helping them to execute land transactions under her tenure as mayor, and he made several trips to Belmopan in the process. Paz confirms that there were vouchers made out to Heredia.
According to Zuniga, the audits of the municipalities are “management reports,” and go to the Town Councils/City Councils for them to make clarifications on points that seem unsatisfactory.
Paz told us that this is the first audit report presented under her tenure, but it actually covers the period for which the Opposition People’s United Party controlled the Town Council as well (2001-2003).
Paz informed us that the document is open to the public; however, anyone wishing to see it can’t just show up and demand it, but has to write the Council in advance, and they will be given an appointment date and time to view the document.
According to Paz, the reason why the public is required to write beforehand is because at least two officers - the accountant and the town administrator, have to sit with the person so that they can answer any questions that person may have about the document.
This is the process that San Pedro Sun’s Kainie Manuel had to go through. She reported that, “The report reveals information from tax revenues, sale of Council’s property, such as golf carts, liquor licensing board, missing vouchers, and receipts, according to the Auditor General.”
Other concerns included the co-signing of a loan by the Council, the sale of the ferry that was at Boca del Rio Park, advances to employees and others, and the procurement of office supplies, the newspaper further reports.
Contrary to reports that the records for 2001 to 2006 have been destroyed, Paz told Amandala today that the council still has all those records.
The public will also be given a report on the 2001-2006 audits when San Pedro Town’s annual meeting is held at the end of the month, she added.
The Mayor claims that it was the Ministry of Local Government that advised them not to allow the copying of the (audited) documents, even though the council could make its own public report on the audit.
Meanwhile, the Auditor General reports that the audit for the Belize City Council will not be finished until this December, or next January. They would move next to scrutinize the financials of Punta Gorda Town Hall.
As to the audits for Central Government, Zuniga told our newspaper: “We decided three years ago to draw the line” at the 2001/2002 financial year, meaning that they would not be bothering with audits for previous years (reportedly dating back to the 80’s/90’s) that had not been completed.
As to the recurring concerns surfacing during the audit (of Central Government), Zuniga noted that “…it’s a lot of what came out of the same process the last time around…things don’t change unless Governments decide to enforce…” principles of sound financial management.
He said that while the Audit Department can make comments on irregularities that it finds, certain things are “for the police.” There are accusations and allegations of public officers committing wrongdoing - politicians don’t sign – but it takes forever for them to go to court; meanwhile those accused continue to get paid from the public purse, Zuniga commented.
The UDP slate for Town Council election 2009 has just been announced.
0 - Thumbs Up
0 - Thumbs Down
As of Monday, November 17th, 2008, the poll showed the following:
The UDP slate for Town Council election 2009 has just been announced.
Thumbs Down - 58.30 % (302)
Thumbs Up - 41.70 % (216)
Total votes: 518
The Audit Report loaded with information from six years of Council’s Administration from both parties, the People’s United Party, as well as the first term run by Mayor Elsa Paz and five of her six councilors. The report reveals information from tax revenues, sale of Council’s property, such as golf carts, liquor licensing board, missing vouchers and receipts that according to the Auditor General, “appeared as although no effort was made in securing these exhausted receipt books”, especially in respect to the National Emergency Management Committee (NEMO). Other concerns were the co-signing of loans at a Belizean banking institution for a certain individual, the sale of the ferry which was located at Boca del Rio Park, advances made to employees and non-employees of SPTC, as well as the purchase of office supplies.
Angel Coral Street
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
November 10th, 2008
Mayor Elsa Paz
San Pedro Town Council
Barrier Reef Drive
The Belize Rural South Executive Committee of the People’s United Party (PUP) is through this medium requesting that your office disclose all relevant financial reports to the media, interested parties and all residents of San Pedro.
The Committee has noted with grave concern that the only Audit Report conducted during the 6 years of your administration of this municipality’s funds has raised serious questions leading to allegations of misappropriation and mismanagement of public funds in San Pedro. It is absolutely outrageous that these allegations are compounded with the report that all 2001-2006 voucher records for the SPTC have already been disposed of. This we find borders dangerously on the interpretation that your administration is hiding major financial misappropriations from the hard working residents of this municipality. We urge you to prove otherwise by way of producing concrete evidence that this is not so as this report surely has raised more questions than answers.
As one of the largest revenue collecting municipalities in the country, official figures indicate that the San Pedro Town Council collects about 2.8 – 3 million dollars per annum. During the course of five years of collecting these revenues your Town Council has failed to present any quarterly or annual reports as you pledged to do in your Manifesto to the people.
Two months ago the Town Council announced that Transport Fees both from San Pedro and Caye Caulker approximating $200,000 per annum will now be used to expand the SPTC budget. This new development combined with additional fees you plan to impose on Taxi drivers and other entrepreneurs on the island raise major concerns in view of San Pedro Town Council’s lack of financial reporting and accountability.
The new Belize Rural South Executive Committee in its pledge to ensure zero tolerance for lack of accountability and transparency across the board makes an urgent call on you as Mayor of this municipality to release copies of the recent Audit Report in a manner that will allow for in-depth review and scrutiny on the part of all interested parties.
In view of the undeniable fact that the people of San Pedro have a right to be fully informed of the financial reports of this Town Council and, based on your need to make good on your promise to make these available, the PUP Belize Rural South Executive urges you to respond to this important request in a prompt and efficient manner.
Andre Perez, Chairperson
PUP Belize Rural South
Cc. Ambergris Today
San Pedro Sun
The Belize Times
The San Pedro Business Association
Ambergris Chamber of Commerce
Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr.
But while Manuel is drinking at the Radisson, more than likely he’s drowning his sorrows, cause San Pedro lady mayor Elsa Paz says that she is back in the race. Seem like those two can’t get along, and Heredia had his own candidates all lined up in a row when Paz announced that she would not contest the upcoming municipal elections. Tough luck, Manuel, and you better drink a lot more, cause you got a lot of sorrows coming in the days ahead. Word is already coming out of the BTB about the San Pedro land deal by the Holy Cross Anglican School and other deals…did you really think that putting a gag order in place at the BTB would work? Hell no! Enjoy your last days, buddy…If da noh so!
If da no soh - Tuesday, October 7th, 2008
Taxpayers are asking that Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow demand the return of the monies taken by Mayor Moya.
Mayor Zenaida Moya asked to return salaries that are alleged she paid herself.
On Thursday, October 2, 2008, the Ministry of Local Government convened a meeting with the Council to address this matter, and following that meeting, nine Belize City Councilors approved and passed a resolution at a duly convened meeting of the Council requiring that the unapproved salary payment “cease forthwith,” and that all unauthorized sums paid to the Mayor be repaid by her immediately, a clear indication that the Mayor did not have the approval of the Members of the Council and therefore acted illegally.
While the United Democratic Party Government seems inclined to dismiss this matter, the PUP is concerned about the Mayor’s abuse of power. The PUP therefore calls on the Ministry of Local Government to make the full report of their findings available to the public. The PUP also calls on Prime Minister Barrow to take action forthwith to ensure that there is full compliance with the findings and the resulting resolution passed by the Belize City Council.
The Party also calls on Deputy Mayor Anthony Michael and the eight other Councilors who approved and passed the resolution to take all necessary action to protect the interests of Belize City taxpayers, and to prove to all Belizeans that their actions were grounded in principle, as they claimed in the public forum.
The residents of the old capital deserve better from their elected managers, at the very least the service, accountability, transparency and integrity which were promised so feverishly by the UDP during their campaign.
- press release -