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Oct 30, 2006

Court rules against Narda on judicial review

Story PictureChief Justice of Belize Abdulai Conteh has dismissed an application for judicial review from former Social Security Board general manager Narda Garcia to quash the report of the Senate Special Select Committee. Garcia’s motion, filed by former Solicitor General Elson Kaseke and attorney Oswald Twist, alleged that the Senate committee had violated natural justice during the course of its mandate by, among other things, failing to submit a copy of the auditor’s report to her and failing to point out that she had the right to bring a lawyer to the public hearings to cross examine other witnesses. But more generally, Garcia claimed that under Senate rules, the committee had no legal right to hold an inquiry into the affairs of the S.S.B. In response, today Solicitor General Edwin Flowers argued that Garcia was not the subject of the investigation, rather the Senators sought to investigate the mismanagement of the fund. In handing down his decision, Chief Justice Conteh pointed out that while Garcia raised “serious and troubling” questions about the fairness of the Senate investigation, he was not persuaded by the matter brought before him. Conteh said he understood that Garcia would be “peeved” about the findings of the Senators but maintained that “this is not a proper case to grant judicial review”. Following this afternoon’s ruling, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee Godwin Hulse told us that the weight of the evidence simply prevailed on the side of the Senate and the Senate Committee.

Godwin Hulse, Chair, S.S.B. Special Committee
?We stand by the report, the report was thoroughly done, well researched and the facts of that report will stand the test of time that is for sure. I mean the challenge that in fact that the audit was not handed to Mrs. Garcia could be brought by the people as well because it was not handed to time either. The report could not come out before the report, the audit was not the basis of the determination it was part of a package of a lot of information. Including the hearings and everything that led us to the conclusions we drew. The audit itself was the audit of their numbers, this is the audit of Social Security numbers but not in the normal audit which their auditor does it was a special audit. And the audit confirmed that the transactions took place and that where we got the auditing, so.?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
?I gathered that Mrs. Garcia felt personally attacked. Was it ever personal, any part of the report??

Godwin Hulse
?Not to my final presentation where I said, in summing up in the Senate, my conclusion that I thank God even in this small Belize where I know everybody, including Mrs. Garcia she worked with me, that I had the strength and the courage to say: we gave you people a position to look after our interest and you fell done on the job. You did us wrong. Because there is no doubt that Mrs. Garcia and the board are custodians of the people?s fund, and if the representatives of the people namely the union representative Senator Gomez and myself as business representative who are the overall contributors to the fund don?t have the right to go in there and say lets have a look as to what has happened here, and whether what has happened here was dictated by Ministers or whom ever nobody said that to us. She never once said the Minister told me. I am hearing the Commission of Inquiry report and I hear the General Manager of the D.F.C. say: I have in writing from the Chairman, he told me even though I told him. That was never told to us and nobody said the Minister ordered me, so in the course of our investigations we concluded that if the authority stopped with you and you could not say how you acted outside then the authority stopped with you.?

In related news, tonight we understand that on Garcia’s point that she was wrongfully dismissed from Social Security, the board has settled with the disgraced G.M. out of court. Chairman of the board of directors of the S.S.B. Michele Chebat maintained to News Five that the terms of settlement with Garcia is strictly confidential.

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