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Oct 11, 2018

CitCo Gives Back $2,500 ‘Gift’

The Belize City Council says that today it returned the two-thousand five hundred dollars in cash that was left on the desk of City Administrator Stephanie Garbutt. Deputy Mayor Oscar Arnold says that it was a matter they were dealing with internally, but after a letter sent to Chinese Businesswoman Tung Wang Huang of a business called ‘Office Station’ in Belmopan was leaked, Arnold told the media that they had to set the record straight. Now according to the letter, dated October tenth, Mayor Bernard Wagner wrote to the woman, better known as ‘Miss Nan,’ that she left an envelope of money on Garbutt’s desk the day before. Garbutt reportedly immediately called Nan and asked her to return for the money which she refused. Garbutt informed the Mayor saying that it was not the first time Nan attempted to leave a ‘gift’ for her. The letter also disclosed that Nan stuffed a hundred dollar bill in the hands of one of the Park Managers following an official business transaction. And so the Mayor informed Nan, via letter, ‘As stewards of the public trust, we are sensitive to any public perceptions that may result from anyone associated or in our employment accepting a gift.” Mayor Bernard Wagner is out of office on official business, and so today Arnold spoke on his behalf to say that the “gift” is not in line with their gifting policy.

 

Oscar Arnold, Deputy Mayor, Belize City Council

“Mayor Wagner wanted to reiterate that the issue at hand was an issue of something going against our gifting policy here at the council. Nothing else, nothing less, nothing more. He wrote a letter that was an internal matter – an issue that was gonna be handled internally and it got out into the public domain and some areas it was being misconstrued, so we wanted to just clear the air on that. Mayor Wagner wrote a letter to one of our suppliers that certain policies are being implemented at our council, one of them being a gifting policy and that the gift that was left behind was in excess of what could be accepted. For our sins, and being former bankers, we had to make sure because the funds would have been left over night, that there was dual custody and there was a recording of the serial numbers in the event that there was anything that would have happened one day to the next. That was just for reconciliation purposes and there was nothing untoward that happen with any of the funds that was left behind. We also want to reiterate to residents and businesses, if at any time you are requested by employees of the council that you have to provide gifts for any services at the council, that this be reported as well because this is serious breach of our gifting policy here at the council as well. It is a company that we have been doing business with before and it is a company that we have not had an issue with and so we want to continue our good relations with the different business that we conduct our day to day with. I really can’t say what the gift was for. In some cultures, in some parts of the world that is the norm. For us in Belize, because of the culture we are trying to change here at the City Council and so it is not something that we want to encourage. Where I come from, at the institution that I used to work with before, anything over fifty dollars had to be reported to management. No because it would have come with any mal intent, but because of the perception of what it represented was the problem.”

 

There are allegations that the businesswoman has had similar practices with certain government offices and when she was caught in the act – they terminated their business relationship. This afternoon, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry applauded Mayor Bernard for condemning an alleged attempted illegal gift to a city employee by a businessperson.  The B.C.C.I. states that the fight against corruption is not one, which can be won by lip service, but rather by small acts of rejection of these corrupt behaviours which have, detrimentally, become engrained in our way of doing business. This example of a leader in public service taking a stance against corruption is an encouraging step towards better governance, accountability and transparency.

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