BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 31, 2021– During Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, the Minister responsible for Constitutional and Political Reform, Hon. Henry Usher, introduced the Protected Disclosures Bill, 2021, which is described as “an act to combat corruption and other wrongdoings or improper conduct in the public and private sector.”
The bill was drafted in response to demands from the public and the country’s workers unions for good governance, and it seeks to put in place measures to protect whistleblowers from “detrimental” actions against them. It provides for the creation of channels through which complaints can be received and the establishment of processes for investigating those complaints and addressing the disclosure of improper conduct.
“The Protected Disclosures Bill 2021 is more popularly referred to as the Whistleblowers Bill, and it is part of government’s good governance legislation. I need to first acknowledge and express gratitude to the Attorney General and her staff for the incredible work being done and for drafting this bill in record time,” Minister Usher stated, during his introduction of the legislation.
While this bill was being read in the lower House of Parliament, the unions were protesting outside. They have still not reached a final agreement with the government of Belize regarding a 10% salary cut and are calling GoB representatives to come back to the negotiation table following the unions’ latest proposals. One of the major issues being championed by the Joint Unions, besides their opposition to the finalized salary cuts, is the call for the full implementation of good governance measures.
Minister Usher remarked, however, during his address to the House, “It is most unfortunate that the union leaders continue to misrepresent what is being discussed and agreed to with the government. I was part of those discussions, and perhaps, as has been suggested in other quarters, these meetings should have been recorded or televised so the Belizean people could hear the truth. And the truth, Madam Speaker, is that numerous good governance initiatives were discussed and specific timelines for the preparation and introduction of this legislation were agreed to. The first such bill is this one, the Protected Disclosures Bill. “
While the introduction of this bill can be seen as a step toward the implementation of good governance, union leaders have argued that the draft of that legislation was lacking key elements to make the law effective. They were given until May 18 to submit to government their feedback on the draft of the legislation that was sent to them by GoB, but have still not replied to the government, said Usher during his address to the House. He stated that this bill is the first that will be introduced in furtherance of the good governance agenda.