BELMOPAN, Fri. Feb. 5, 2020– During Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister John Briceño announced that the second reading of the General Revenue Appropriation Bill # 6 of 2020/2021 would be deferred until a further date. The bill is for the allocation of an additional 7.5 million dollars for the completion of the new Ministry of Finance building, the Eleanor Hall building. Hon. Briceño noted that the construction of the building is also being carried out by Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL) in partnership with International Environments (i.E.) — two entities that are currently being scrutinized by the Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing, Hon. Julius Espat.
“The honorable member had to get to the bottom of things with BIL. Well, this also has to do with BIL, and we are also having a lot of problems trying to put the facts together. This construction of the proposed Finance [building] was already bid for and accepted from February 14, 2019, and the contract was signed on March 15, 2019 between the Government of Belize, through BIL and the joint venture Medina’s Construction, and guess who? i.E, exactly,” Prime Minister Briceño shared.
Hon. Briceño revealed that the original cost of the project that was listed in the contract was about $12, 697,392.65. In addition to this, a variation was made to the contract to increase the sum to $14,547,186.06. Prime Minister Briceño shared that there is currently another contract in connection to this building for the direct purchase of the steel frame roof and gutter system. This was paid to a UK company, John Reid and Sons, in the amount of $5,521,406.26.
“Other contracts associated with the project include an engineering and supervision contract with Professional and Engineering Services Limited of roughly $200,000. And a further contract with Medina’s and i.E for 1.1 million dollars for the car path. A contract for adjacent roadwork, drainage workers, and sidewalks for almost $2.5 million with RJB construction and a small landscaping contract for less than 20,000 dollars and bomb! We have a building now weh cost we 25 million dollars. Start from 12.6 million and now they want 25 million dollars to finish the Eleanor Hall building!” Hon. Briceño exclaimed.
According to the Prime Minister, 17.15 million dollars has been spent by the Government of Belize to date on this construction project. These funds were transferred to BIL. Only 5 million was approved in the last 2019/2020 budget.
“The remaining $12.15 million constitutes unauthorized expenditure not yet submitted to the House for approval. In fiscal year 2020/2021 up to the end of December 2020, another 8.1 million dollars was transferred to BIL; again most of it was used toward the building. Similarly, only 5 million dollars has been approved,” said Prime Minister Briceno.
He outlined that the remaining 3 million dollars is also an unauthorized expenditure, since it was not taken to the House of Representatives for approval. The Prime Minister said that the Government must investigate this contract before it approves any further funds.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Patrick Faber, questioned how long the deferral would last, since the Prime Minister had mentioned that the newly formed Public Contract Commission would undertake the investigation of the contract award. “In my view [it’s] kicking the can down the road, and as he has put it, he will defer it until he can properly investigate,” Faber said.
“Why is it, that in almost all of the contracts that Belize Infrastructure Limited issued, the name of i.E, International Environments, appears, 80%, about 80% of the contracts issued by BIL?” the Prime Minister asked.
“We just can’t come and approve another 7.5 million dollars without knowing the facts,” he said.