BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 23, 2020– It is not uncommon for administrative mischief to occur within government departments in the final months leading up to Belize’s general elections, and apparently, this year’s elections were no exception.
On November 20, 2020, the Public Service Union of Belize (PSU) issued a press release calling for an investigation into the disposal of government assets leading up to the elections.
According to the release, the PSU received reliable information back in September that the Ministry of Finance, via the Assets and Utilities Management Unit, was facilitating the sale of government vehicles at “obscenely low prices and well below market value” to now former Ministers of Government and their associates.
As a result, the union says, they sent a letter to the Assets and Utilities Manager, Ruperto Vicente, and copied it to Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight, on September 25, 2020, requesting a detailed list of all government vehicles purchased and disposed of within the last eight years and the individuals, departments and costs associated with the said purchases and disposals.
The PSU claims that they received a response confirming the receipt of their request, but after several email reminders and a follow-up letter dated November 2, 2020, they still have not received the information requested.
Further investigation by the PSU has led to findings that indicate that not only has the Assets and Utilities Management Unit been selling government vehicles for as low as $200 in certain instances, but it has also conducted the sale of other government assets such as furniture, electronics, and other equipment under the authorization of the Financial Secretary.
The PSU also pointed out that the Accountant General and the Auditor General were “copied in” on the approval letters for the sale of the aforementioned assets.
Their statement concludes with a request by the union that the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, launch an investigation into the “unprincipled if not corrupt disposal of Government assets over the past 12 months”.
The union is also requesting that the Prime Minister hold the senior public officers who facilitated these sales, accountable, and that he instruct the Assets and Utilities Manager to provide the detailed listing of all the vehicle purchases and disposals for the last eight months, which they had previously requested from the Dean Barrow-led UDP administration.