BELIZE CITY, Sun. Feb. 7, 2021– On Sunday night, the suspended general manager of Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL), Christy Mastry, issued a statement in which she refuted allegations against her that were made by Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing, Hon. Julius Espat, during last Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives.
In his address to the House, Hon. Espat claimed that BIL spent over $100 million on projects, with about 80% of that sum going to a company at which Mastry was employed and in which she was a partner — International Environments (i.E.). Mastry denied outrightly not only this claim, but also Espat’s assertions that International Environments had access to the Smart Stream platform used by Government and that she, in her capacity as General Manager of BIL, approved financial transactions of the government agency unilaterally.
In Mastry’s statement, she also attempted to clarify references that were made by Hon. Espat to the reported deletion of financial records by the company. She referred to the statements made by Hon. Espat to the deletion of these records as a misrepresentation of what occurred and went on to make four points regarding the operations of BIL to address any distortions of the true nature of BIL’s business practices that she believes were presented in Hon. Espat’s address.
Firstly, it was noted that the newly appointed board of BIL, which no longer has representation from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and the unions, is currently awaiting its mandate. She then started by addressing the allegation that BIL had access to the Smart Stream platform. “Belize Infrastructure Limited was accused of using Smart Stream, the government’s central payment platform, for its own operations. BIL was not, is not, nor ever has been connected to the GOB Smart stream platform,” Mastry’s release states. The release further declared that no employee or affiliate of BIL has ever used or had access to the system.
The release then goes on to deny Hon. Espat’s allegation that BIL gave most of its contracts to a company in which she was a partner — i.E. “The General Manager of BIL has never engaged in a partnership with International Environments LTD. This remains another indisputable fact,” says the release.
In the release Mastry states that while she did work with the firm (i.E.) for a short time, most of her work has been with the Government of Belize. She then, in reference to the construction of a new Ministry of Finance building, which has currently come under scrutiny by the new government due to what appears to be a bloated price tag, stated, “The project was advertised in all local papers and within CARICOM under the NCB rules and was evaluated according to the QCBS (Quality-Cost-Based Selection), with the current joint venture team offering the lowest qualifying evaluated bid. BIL stands by this process. The cost of the contract again is the Building (14,547,184.06) and Car Park (1,132,534.38) shared by the joint venture contractors.”
Minister Espat had also claimed that as BIL general manager, Mastry made certain purchases without the approval of the board of directors. In reference to this claim, the release states, “The General Manager of BIL has never had financial autonomy. The Company was established with secondary check signing and there is no possible scenario in which the General Manager could purchase any item [without] requisite signature and the Ministry of Finance allocations of fiscal space.”
The release explains that the instance noted by the Ministry involves an ongoing purchase and is a singularity.
“Every annual audit (as BIL maintains) is presented to the Board for review. One board member reference the purchase of two replacement vehicles for BIL staff. It was known by the Board that BIL was assigned two vehicles at its inception of 2013. These vehicles are property of the Ministry of Finance by way of BIL. In 2017 the Ministry of Finance approved the purchase of two replacement vehicles,” the release notes.
The last allegation addressed by the release is Hon. Espat’s assertion that BIL “destroyed” its financial records prior to 2019/2020 due to what it claimed was a lack of space. Mastry’s release states that BIL has done annual audits, published by the Grant Thornton auditing firm, since 2014, its first year, which can be found online. According to the release, BIL’s budget allocation includes the cost of all public sporting facilities, and now also includes the Lake Independence Master Plan and the Ministry of Finance building project that is currently under investigation by GOB.
“The operations of the office remain at approximately 4% overhead. All other funds go directly to the projects and this remains reflected in all the annual audits showing all financials of the company,” the release states.
In her release Mastry did acknowledge that the company disposed of “redundant files” associated with the office’s operation when the audits were completed.
“No files relating to projects were destroyed,” the release said.