BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 16, 2015–The recently concluded audit of the Belize City Council was the subject of a press briefing this morning by the opposition People’s United Party (PUP) and its mayoral candidate, businesswoman Yolanda Schakron.
During the press briefing, the Opposition described the audit report as “an indictment” of Mayor Darrell Bradley’s performance, but minutes later, reporters heard from the Mayor, who called the PUP’s categorization “baseless allegations …a red herring and political mischief two weeks before an election.”
Apart from its mayoral candidate Schakron, the PUP head table featured Jose Coye, a former Minister of Health during the past two Said Musa administrations, who is also a former mayor of Belize City. Coye spoke at the press briefing in his capacity as a chartered public accountant.
In critiquing the audit, Coye came in for his share of attention from Mayor Bradley, who appeared astonished that the PUP would bring Coye to criticize him.
“You’re telling me that they got Joe Coye to give an opinion on our independent audit? Man, really and truly, this Joe Coye, which the Caribbean Court of Justice, in their judgment, referred to in the most unkind way for actions that were done in the capacity of a public office …and then they will bring him?” Bradley asked.
In her opening remarks, Schakron said that the 2014 audit that Mayor Bradley presented raises more questions than answers as to the true financial state of the Belize City Council.
“Millions have been spent on donations, contributions, festivities and streets… we are still waiting to see how he spent 40 million dollars,” Schakron said.
She also accused Bradley of neglecting the south side of Belize City, in favor of Caribbean Shores.
“Now all of a sudden, two weeks before an election, Ms. Schakron reads an audit report, says she doesn’t know about numbers, and then this becomes a big issue …?” Mayor Bradley said of Schakron.
Jose Coye said his presentation would focus on the audits of 2012, 2013, and 2014, adding that to its credit, the Belize City Council has subscribed to international standards of reporting for accounting.
Coye went on to say that the council’s indebtedness is evidence of bad management.
“These figures don’t look well for the Council,” Coye said, as he noted that within three years a municipal government moved from having 14 million dollars in liabilities to recording 40 million dollars in liabilities. “Is that sustainable? Is it that the central government will bail them out?” he questioned.
Mayor Darrell Bradley told reporters at City Hall that there are three audits for the Belize City Council — 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Bradley explained that when he took over as mayor at City Hall, every single transaction was a manual transaction.
“When we did our first audit it was a nightmare, having to find all those papers. One of the first things we did was to transition from a manual system to an electronic system,” he said.
Bradley described the PUP’s assessment of the audit reports as “an election gimmick”.
“Two weeks now before an election they are coming up with this. We release this current audit in December and it took them two months to come up with a single question. They have no idea, no planning, no vision for Belize City,” Bradley said of the PUP.
Amandala asked Bradley if he is elected, what assurance he can give residents of Belize City that he will not abandon his mayorship to seek higher office as a standard bearer in one of the city’s constituencies.
Bradley replied that as long as he is the mayor, he will work hard for the city. “I can point to paving 140 streets. My assurance and the only assurance I will give is that if I am elected as mayor, I will stay true to the oath I have taken and discharge my functions to the best of my ability. That is what we have been doing for the past three years,” the Mayor said.
Bradley dismissed the question of raising taxes as a red herring and election propaganda.
“Our mantra has always been to consult with residents of Belize City. There is absolutely no plan to increase taxes,” he said.