BELMOPAN, Fri. Oct. 4, 2019– “Therefore be it resolved that this honorable House approves the write-off of forty thousand four hundred and seventy thousand and eighty eight dollars as a loss to the Government of Belize,” Prime Minister Dean Barrow said, as the Joshua Perdomo write-off got its 3rd and final reading when it came back to the House from the Finance and Economic Committee.
Forty thousand dollars may seem like a very small amount to a government that has become accustomed to wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars without accounting for it, but the Perdomo write-off is one controversy that will not go away so easily.
After the motion was introduced in the House of Representatives for the first time, in late August, none other than the Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, weighed in with a statement that the loan had run its statutory course of six years, and after six years, the bill cannot be collected because it has become “statute-barred.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow used the statute-barred excuse for writing off forty thousand dollars of taxpayers’ dollars for the son of his Cabinet Secretary, Carlos Perdomo, who, he said, “could not be located,” even though KREM News had tracked Perdomo on the internet to Texas, where he had gone to study and is now working in forensics, after getting a Master’s Degree in Forensic Genetics from the University of North Texas at the expense of Belizean taxpayers.
Perdomo did not honor the three-year bond that he had signed with the Government of Belize, and he never returned to the country after he went on study leave from his government job. In September, 2011, Perdomo was terminated from his post in the government service.
On Friday, the United Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow took the Perdomo write-off to the House of Representatives, where a division of the House was called and seventeen members from the government side voted in favor of the write-off, while ten Opposition members voted no. There were four absent members.
The Caribbean Shores area representative, Hon. Kareem Musa, began to speak about the motion on the adjournment, shedding new, legal light on the matter.
Before Hon. Musa could finish making his point, however, Prime Minister Barrow rose to tell the Speaker of the House, Laura Tucker-Longsworth, that, “He is trying to speak on the motion, and the content of the motion and what was in it and what was not in it. That matter is spent, Madam Speaker.”
“Member, I asked you not to go down that road,” the Speaker chimed in, “Please continue with your presentation.”
“I am going to continue, Madam Speaker,” Musa replied. “Bonds, Mr. Prime Minister, and you can smile now,” Hon Musa continued, “are specialty contracts. So don’t let any prime minister or government come to this house in the future and tell you that there is a six-year statute of limitation on a specialty contract like a bond.”
Hon. Musa then went on to quote from the Limitation Act, which he described as “a short act.”
“I am surprised the people at the Attorney General’s office missed it,” he said.
Hon. Musa went on to quote from Section Six of the Limitation Act, which says, “An action such upon a specialty shall not be brought after the expiration of twelve years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.”
Hon. Musa also quoted from Halsbury’s Laws of England, which says that a specialty includes a bond, a contract under seal.
“So don’t let the Prime Minister try to fool the Belizean people,” Hon. Musa told the House.