BELIZE CITY, Mon. Sept. 6, 2021– During the sitting of the House of Representatives last Friday, UDP leader Hon. Patrick Faber rose to comment on the government’s recent decision to award a Microsoft Office licensing contract, previously held by Belize Telemedia Limited, to Speednet’s SMART.
As reported, SMART won a bid to provide the Government of Belize with Microsoft 365 licensing for 1 year from June 2021 to June 2022 at the cost of 3.37 million dollars.
A leaked document from the Ministry of Finance shows the disbursement of the payment to SMART, and according to Faber, this payment was made even before the agreement was signed.
Before the contract was awarded to SMART, the government had signed an agreement under which BTL would have provided GOB with an additional three months of licensing. Additional leaked documents from public servants show a payment of over $295,000 dollars to BTL for the same services, with payment due for the next two months amounting to $885,000.
The government will ultimately be paying this sum to BTL for licensing that is now being provided by SMART— thus duplicating the expense.
“How is it that you figure you can sign an extension for three months with BTL and then go back, sign a full year with SMART at the kind of figure…and you pay in full? When BTL, we are told, is offering you some kind of arrangement that it could be paid out of the dividends that BTL would owe the government of Belize. The cash-strapped administration, Madam Speaker, decided to pay SMART upfront even before they sign the contract,” Faber remarked.
He added, “Madam Speaker, I have in my hand a copy of the voucher and the payment…where the Briceño administration paid BTL for 1 month of that three-month extension and you know how much they paid, Madam Speaker? $295,015.50. Let me repeat that: $295,000 they paid BTL as a duplication, or rather it’s SMART that was duplicating, because they already contracted BTL from this month of June, from the 24th of June to the 24th of July, di service done provided, yo know, Madam Speaker, but yet they went back and paid SMART.”
Faber says that the government’s decision to switch to SMART ultimately wasted more of the Belizean people’s money than it saved.
“In order to fatten his family’s company, Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister family’s company, in order to give them a big fat payday, this is $900,000 that the government is wasting. How can you account for that, Mr. Prime Minister? I want to hear the answer to this. This is the kind of money that is wasting. This is the thing that really boils the blood of Belizean people, those public servants who you told ‘you to have to make a sacrifice because you haven’t taken any sacrifice yet’. Ten percent of your pay gone, those police officers, medical workers, frontline doctors who you didn’t bother to exempt, they too had to take the ten percent pay cut,” Faber said.
For his part, the Prime Minister maintained that he was not even aware that the Microsoft 365 licensing contract was coming to an end, and according to him, he had no hand in SMART winning the bid for the contract. He claimed that he had never even gotten a dollar from the company.
In responding to the revelation of the duplicate payments that would be paid to BTL by the government of Belize, the Prime Minister said that the UDP operatives inside the government are hindering the work of the administration by their actions — in effect, an admission that the government will in fact be charged for the extension of BTL’s licensing deal.
“It is so ironic that he gets more information from certain public officers than me as the prime minister of this country, because it is obvious that they have their UDP agents set up in this government, and they have them set up deliberately in certain positions to undermine the work of this government. When we were sitting on the other side, we get absolutely nothing from those very same officers, but all of sudden they are so pious and feel like they have to feed you information. UDP was fleecing this country to the tune of millions of dollars and they said nothing; now over a matter that is clear and transparent, they are trying to create an issue as if something went wrong,” he said.