The City Council doesn’t know who had, and was using their equipment for 2 ½ years
BELIZE CITY, Tues. Aug. 7, 2018– This afternoon, two pieces of heavy duty equipment that had gone missing from the Belize City Council for almost 3 years were mysteriously towed to the Council’s Works Department compound on the George Price Highway. The equipment was towed on a vehicle owned by one of Minister Anthony “Boots” Martinez’s “lieutenants.”
The heavy duty equipment, which went missing during the tenure of the former United Democratic Party (UDP) City Council, led by former mayor, Darrell Bradley, and which had been listed as unaccounted for in an internal audit by the present People’s United Party (PUP) City Council, were returned after a mysterious phone call that hastily arranged the delivery.
The Council’s audit report also listed a “Bob Cat” as the third piece of equipment that had been unaccounted for. Deputy Mayor Oscar Arnold confirmed this afternoon that the Belize City Council was informed by the same mysterious caller that their Bob Cat is in Unitedville, Cayo District, undergoing repairs, after which arrangements would be made for its delivery to the council.
The three pieces of equipment were ordered and bought by the Government of Belize in December 2014 for the City Council after the council had terminated its sanitation contract with Belize Maintenance Limited (BML). The equipment had been bought by central government to assist the council to jump-starting its own sanitation program, when it absorbed the BML workers.
A government invoice dated December 5, 2014, listed the cost of purchased items as follows: 2012 John Deere 320 D Skid Steer Bob Cat, purchased for $24,000; 1992 D4C Cat, shipping and purchase price of $31,500; and a 2014 Big Tex Gooseneck trailer 102″ x 20″ model #20GN-205, purchased for $10,000. The total value of the 3 pieces was $65,000. This cost was subject to custom duties, which was not listed on the invoice.
Mayor Darrell Bradley has confirmed in recent media interviews that his council never took possession of the three pieces of equipment. If it were not for an internal audit request from City Councilor Albert Vaughan, who holds the Council’s Works portfolio, the equipment would not have been discovered as missing.
The City Council’s Internal Audit Report, dated July 26, 2018, details a paper trail beginning from the time the equipment first landed in Belize.
The City Council’s Director of Finance, Marilyn Ordonez, had written to Financial Secretary Joseph Waight on three separate occasions inquiring about the equipment, but had received no answer to her correspondences. The most recent correspondence was sent on April 30, 2018.
In one of Ordonez’s correspondence to the Financial Secretary, she asked him to advise Minister Martinez that the equipment had been bought for the Belize City Council, because the Minister had reportedly said that the equipment was his.
A number of Belize City Council staff members who were interviewed by the audit team said that what transpired in regards to the three pieces of equipment was either above their pay scale, they could not recall what had happened, or they just simply followed the chain of command.
In our telephone interview this afternoon with Deputy Mayor Arnold, he told us that the works manager received a call, and the individual who was calling informed him that the bulldozer and the trailer, which were two of the three pieces of missing equipment, “could be picked up” or he “could have it delivered to the City Council Works Department this afternoon.”
We asked the Deputy Mayor who made the call, and he said that they were still trying to determine who made the call, but that the person only referred to himself as “Malic.”
We then asked Arnold what the caller had said about the equipment, and he told us that he (the caller) said that he “could have them delivered” and that the “tractor was on the trailer,”Arnold added, “The previous mayor and the previous council did not seem to care that we had equipment that we were not using, because they also authorized the rental of equipment when they were in power.”
We asked Arnold what is the council’s position regarding the equipment.
“Well, we need to know who we need to send an invoice to, for the past two and a half years for the rental of these equipment,” Arnold said.
Arnold also said that they need to know the condition of the equipment that has been returned.
We asked Arnold if there is any intention on the part of the Council to involve the police.
Arnold replied that their investigation was still ongoing.
“We will leave the option open to determine if there was criminal wrongdoing, but the previous mayor, the previous council, and city administrator, nobody reported this equipment stolen. There was no report made to the police. Now three years later, we will see if someone could be criminally charged for this,” Arnold pointed out.
We asked Arnold if they would send someone up to Unitedville to see who has the Bob Cat, and to find out how it came into the person’s possession.
“The instruction is for the works manager to go up there with the paperwork that we have, and instruct the individual who has it that it has to be returned to the Council immediately, otherwise it will be treated as the handling of stolen goods,” Arnold explained.
We also asked Arnold who returned the tractor and the trailer.
“What I understand, is that they either contracted or they asked a favor of ‘Big John’ [John Pollard, one of the campaign workers for Minister Anthony “Boots” Martinez], who is doing some works on Fabers Road, and it was one of his vans that was used to tow the trailer and the tractor,” said Arnold.
Arnold said that during the time that the Council was without the equipment, it had to rent equipment to do its work.