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Nov 9, 2016

Senate Hosts Auditor General in First Public Hearing for Select Committee

The third meeting of the Senate Special Select Committee on a three volume Immigration Report, and the first to be held in public, proceeded for an abbreviated one-hour session this morning at the National Assembly in Belmopan. It featured the appearance of Auditor General Dorothy Bradley, whose office has been under siege from the Government which it serves as it tries to explain away a severe black eye for the Barrow administration. While the opening skirmish proved to be more appetizer than main course, there is still much more to be had, as correspondent Aaron Humes reports from the capital.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The Special Audit on Immigration and Nationality, according to Auditor General Dorothy Bradley, occasioned from a random memo crossing her desk.

 

Dorothy Bradley

Dorothy Bradley, Auditor General

“During the course of my daily duties, I came across a memo from the Ministry of Labour, Local Government, Rural [Development], National Emergency Management and Immigration and Nationality, dated September thirtieth, where it made some reference to missing visas within that Ministry, within that Department. What happened is that once I found that and we decided we want to do an audit on visas, a team was established and they were assigned to take on the audit of the missing visas. Once we started that audit, we had encountered – it was a public discussion, in a sense, where there was a case of a Mister Kim, with a passport…”

 

Aldo Salazar, Chairman, Senate Select Committee

“Case of whom?”

 

Dorothy Bradley

“Won Hong [Kim].”

 

Aldo Salazar

“In the course of your…?”

 

Dorothy Bradley

“In the course of executing that audit; the initial audit, which was to cover the missing visas, we then learned the case of the passport, and we expanded our scope and included  that part of it.”

 

The resulting investigation took three years and filled three volumes. It lists many names of many persons, high and low, entangled in the April 2011 to September 2013 alleged “grand hustle” of immigration certificates, passports, visas and related documents. It is now the task of Chairman Aldo Salazar and members Dr. Carla Barnett, Eamon Courtenay, Mark Lizarraga, Ashley Rocke and Elena Smith to sift through the many allegations and help to determine what went wrong at the Department, and why, and what, if anything, can be done to stop it. But according to Bradley’s testimony, what is on display reflects only the tip of the iceberg.

 

Mark Lizarraga

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“You state in your opening, in your summary, executive summary, that this audit reflects a very or a small percentage of the total findings, because of the volume of actual findings. Can you give us an idea of how small this percentage is?”

 

Dorothy Bradley

“This percentage reflects twenty-five percent.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Twenty-five per cent. So…”

 

Dorothy Bradley

“Of one year activity.”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Sorry?”

 

Dorothy Bradley

“Twenty-five percent of a one year activity, because we did two years, so its twenty-five percent of one year, which would equate to something like three months?”

 

Mark Lizarraga

“Three months. So if you had in fact done a full, hundred percent audit, we would have expected to see four times, perhaps?”

 

Dorothy Bradley

“I’m not sure. It would depend on the examinations and findings.”

 

While findings of the report were discussed with senior officials at the Ministry of Immigration, the actual reports were not shown to them. But Bradley also noted that the Ministry was not completely helpful in relation to the investigation as it happened. The Senate Committee met for the first time in its full capacity before the public hearing this morning, and according to member Senator Eamon Courtenay, they agreed that the hearing would be streamlined as much as possible and they would be proceeding very deliberately.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“We had a meeting prior to the public session, and we agreed that it is important that we have a structured approach to questioning the witnesses and the conduct of the inquiry. And since the Auditor General was already here, we thought that we would just ask her some preliminary questions, and when we return we would go in-depth into the questions we have for her. Most importantly, we decided that we are going to hire an attorney for the Special Senate Select Committee, and that attorney is going to be assisting us between now and the next time we return, and therefore hence the shortened meeting today.”

 

Reporter

“Sir, what in your mind are some of the things you would want to know in the next session in which Miss Bradley makes herself available?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“I think the Auditor General’s report is quite comprehensive. We need for her to clarify on the record the procedure she adopted; the way in which she reached her conclusions; we need for her to indicate to us the evidence that she had, the evidence that she did not get – and that is one of the issues that we’ll will be taking up, the fact that the Senate will insist on getting those things; and maybe having seen that; she may want to change her report. We are at a very preliminary stage; and I think that the Auditor General’s report and her evidence are going to be very helpful in the long-term, in terms of what recommendations the Committee will make.”

 

And according to Chairman Salazar, there is a long way to go to get to what some consider the meat of the issue.

 

Aldo Salazar

Aldo Salazar

“We haven’t set a date for the next session as yet, because we need to do certain things; we have decided to engage an attorney to assist with the procedure, we had some deliberations in relation to that; so we’re not able to say an exact date, but we are going to engage the services of an attorney and after we have done so, then we will set a date.”

 

Reporter

“Were there any guidelines set down as to how you go about selecting an attorney?”

 

Aldo Salazar

“There are no guidelines, we have proposed among us some names for selection, I would not want to divulge that at this time; and we would go about asking for – I wouldn’t say bids – but we’ll go around asking for what the remuneration would be expected by those attorneys and we would select one; not necessarily based on remuneration but based on experience and how we think that person would be able to help.”

 

Reporter

“Sir, I think maybe one of the most valid reasons for the inquiry is, “Let’s ask those Ministers what they did, and why they did what they did.” When will we get to that point?”

 

Aldo Salazar

“I cannot say when exactly we will get to that point.”

 

From Belmopan, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

While no date has been set for the next hearing, the meetings will typically be held on Wednesdays between nine and noon in the morning and one and four in the afternoon.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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