Financial irregularities at San Pedro Town Council

Mayor Elsa Paz of San Pedro is in the hot seat tonight as her Council has come under close scrutiny by the Auditor General’s office for financial irregularities under her stewardship. The report covers the period 2001 to 2006, under both a blue and a red Council. The report brings into question several areas where monies either paid out or collected were not clearly accounted for. Some of the irregularities unearthed deal with tax revenues, sale of the Council’s golf carts, missing vouchers and receipts, the purchase of office supplies, the sale of a ferry at Boca del Rio Park, advances made to employees, and the co-signing of loans for a former employee. News Five travelled to San Pedro Town today and caught up with Mayor Paz as she exited Atlantic Bank on Barrier Reef Drive and asked her to respond to the allegations.
Elsa Paz, Mayor, San Pedro Town: “The auditing was from 2001 to 2006, which means that from 2001 to 2003 it was during the P.U.P. administration under Mr. Beto Nunez as the mayor of this town. From the 2003-2006 that’s during my administration with my councillors and that report will be on that annual public meeting that we’re having next week Thursday at the Lions Den and that’s where we’re gonna have not only the audit, but also the report for this year 2007-2008.”
Marion Ali: “But don’t you think that this is a matter that is urgent and needs to be addressed now before next week, especially with the report that’s out; some very serious allegations were made.”
Elsa Paz: “Well, I don’t think—my belief I will personally say that this is more of a political issue.”
Marion Ali: “But why? It’s your party that’s in government.”

Elsa Paz: “No, no, no. It’s a political issue because that press release that is in the San Pedro Sun and Ambergris Today and all the different newspapers, it comes from the chairman of the P.U.P executive.”
Marion Ali: “Are you saying the Auditor General’s report is inaccurate?”Elsa Paz“No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that the general audit report ... we have gotten that. Whatever is in that report, we have answers for that. my employees together with myself and my councillors and the administrators, we can answer any questions that the public needs to know from that audit. That’s why we are gonna go public. We are having the general meeting and we will be presenting that audit to the public together with our annual report and there people will be able to answer any question or if they have any questions from the audit it will be answered on that occasion.”

Marion Ali: “Okay, are you saying that there was no wrong doing during your time of office?”

Elsa Paz: “I don’t think anything that can compromise us or any wrong doings. There are issues.”

Marion Ali: “Questionable?”

Elsa Paz: “Yes, there are things that are questionable but we can answer it because there are valid reasons for us to answer that.”

Marion Ali: “You are seeking re-election?”
Elsa Paz: “Yes, I am seeking re-election. I am ready to serve this community for another three years, which is another term.”

Marion Ali: “So you don’t feel the contents of the report can come back to haunt you at all?”

Elsa Paz: “Oh no, definitely not. I don’t have anything to hide. To the people, whatever they want to question, I am ready to answer. It can be answered; as we all know when audit comes there will be some times when there are mistakes. But like any other thing it’s ...”

Marion Ali: “Mistakes?”

Elsa Paz: “Yeah, maybe there are mistakes with the vouchers that maybe it was ...”

Marion Ali: “But those were consistent mistakes?”
Elsa Paz: “No, no, no, they are small issues, nothing serious. I am telling you. that’s why we are going publicly because we want the whole community of San Pedro to come to the meeting.”

Marion Ali: “What amounts are you talking about?”

Elsa Paz: “I cannot tell you what are the amounts.”

Marion Ali: “In the hundreds, thousands?”

Elsa Paz: “No, I cannot recall the amounts but whatever can be questioned I am more than sure that we can answer those questions.”
The San Pedro Town Council will be allowed to respond to the report after which the document will be made public. Meanwhile, the audits from 2006 onwards have not yet been completed.
Channel 5 Belize - Friday, November 14, 2008

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