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Jan 12, 2012

Business Bureau wants Commission of Inquiry on S.S.B.

On Wednesday the board of the Social Security decided to suspend, effective immediately, C.E.O. Merlene Bailey and the Internal Auditor, Denise Mahler. It was an unprecedented move and a monumental blow to Bailey, who has generally been viewed as a model public officer. Bailey was the chair of the D.F.C. Commission of Inquiry in 2007 and in 2008, soon after the general elections, she was named C.E.O. of the Social Security. Last Friday, we reported that top management and staff of S.S.B. were engaged in what amounted to insider trading to be able to participate in the write-off of seventeen million dollars in housing loans at the Social Security Board. A number of employees, including Bailey, are accused of making loans to reduce their existing mortgages in order to qualify for debt forgiveness initiated by the Barrow Administration.  Under the recently introduced program a list of seven hundred and eighty two borrowers with mortgages not exceeding fifty thousand dollars would have their loans with S.S.B. reconciled and the S.S.B. staff intended to be included in the list which had been approved in September, 2011. The emergency meeting on Wednesday was lengthy and tense. Sitting on the Board of Directors is a representative from the Belize Business Bureau. The B.B.B. called for Bailey’s termination and is now going a step further, calling for a commission of inquiry to investigate the financial affairs of S.S.B.  The B.B.B. Vice President, Fred Hunter, told News Five that the process has been undermined.

Fred Hunter Sr.

Fred Hunter Sr., Vice Chairman, Board of Directors, Belize Business Bureau

“We have a member appointed by the Belize Business Bureau to represent the business sector sitting on the board and he is bound by secrecy on the board that he cannot speak board matters outside.  But he has to report to us who put him there.  His responsibility is to us who put him there.  We put him there so he can know what is going on and he reported to the board and he found out what actually went on.  The prime minister has clarified it; he’s said pretty plainly what is happening.  I don’t want to be at odds with him.  I don’t want to try to embarrass him.  We are just trying to do our business as the Belize Business Bureau to see that the money we have invested to help the whole social security system in Belize is not going to be pilfered away in scams.

It’s a big surprise to all of us, you know.  We never expected it.  And I must say that I have to congratulate the prime minister on his pursuit of transparency and this is a chance now to help get the mess cleaned up.  And I would like to see him get a commission of inquiry to check the financial operations because if the chief financial officer who was supposed to blow the whistle didn’t blow the whistle [then] there may be other things there where the whistle should have been blown and it was not blown.

Merlene Bailey-Martinez

People whose loans were fifty thousand or less might have been paying October, November and December and their loans might have been reduced, some are dead.  It appears to me how the scam could have worked that they would have used that money and uses the money from the dead people and cover their own tracks because on the bottom line it would show up.  It would be hard for an auditor to find because they would have to go to the prime minister for more money.  They would just slowly take off the surpluses that were acquired in there and so it’s a major scam.”

According to Hunter, decisive action must be taken to terminate Bailey-Martinez from her post as C.E.O. since her trustworthiness has been severely eroded.

Fred Hunter

Leticia Vega

“Now what I say about the C.E.O., her credibility is gone to hell.  You can’t even work there again because a person once they have, I have to find the right words, conspired to [commit] a crime the attitude of the mind is there to be a criminal, a white collar or a blue collar.  And you know I’ve never seen a white collar man go to jail yet, a white collar criminal, and I’m sure you have twice as much white collar criminals as you have blue collar criminals.  She should be fired immediately and lose all her benefits because she was put in a position of trust with the money of the poor, of the workers and I have no compunction at all that heads have to roll.”

From what we are told, as many as twenty-seven S.S.B. staff members were encouraged to reduce their loans to meet the requirements for the write-off. The Board of Directors determined her actions to be inappropriate and decided to carry out an external independent audit. As to who is running Social Security now, the staff today was notified that it is Leticia Vega.

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5 Responses for “Business Bureau wants Commission of Inquiry on S.S.B.”

  1. loveit says:

    The woman simply is corrupt. I agree she must go. Hasta la vista baby!
    greedy choke puppy!!

  2. History Minded says:

    @ loveit – It goes beyond simply saying the lady is simply corrupt. Let me add some perspective to the matter. This is nothing new and nothing surprising. CEO’s across the waorld have been taking advantage of their positions. Thus, the occupy wall street protests (in the US and elsewhere) were an aim to alert Big Companies and CEO’s to realize that they cannot take advantage of people. However, Belizeans fail to have made any effort to challenge the authority of CEO’s and other Board Members of companies who continuously receive lavish “benefits” as an “incentive” to higher productivity. I would think that giving incentives to the greater portion of workers would spur higher productivity. Capitalism seeks to make the rich richer and the poor – well too bad for the poor; many capitalists say – they are poor because they are lazy. Now, the CEO is not the only person who is “corrupt”. If we look closely enough, we can see the corruption of many other persons, not to mention government officials (from both parties).

    On another note, the whole idea of boasting the Belizean economy by writing off cheques is dubious. The 6.9 million dollars would have been better invested in job creation. People who make loans should have an asset which covers the cost of their loan should it not be paid. Any banker or credit agency who lends money without a guarantee that it can be paid for or recovered is ridiculous and deserves the lost.

    As for the investigation, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. If guilty she (and any other person involve) must face the consequences.

  3. Pure Belizean says:

    Shame on the CEO. This is being discussed by the children in schools… and they say.. “You see maestro, those politicians and big time people are plain thieves and they are giving all us a very bad example. They then come and talk to us with pretty , but deceptive words.”

    I find it hard to respond to the children after we tell them that these people who are running our country and our institutions are upright, honourable and honest people who only think the best for our country and that the young people should emulate them.

  4. Demetrios Fauskein says:

    We can only hope to guide the young students to be honorable and have pride in the country.
    No way around,if we want a beautiful country, we must wait for the old corrupt heads to pass away.
    Their reward is awaiting them in hell, you bet !!!

  5. estelle martin says:

    I would like them to also investigate the clerical staff members who transacted a $7,000.00 payment on our mortgage in the Belmopan office shortly after the legislation and effective date of the loan forgiveness. Some petty thieves seem to have no value for their employment. We will pursue an investigation of this matter because too many people were robbed legally in the name of doing what they pretended to be their jobs.

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