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Sep 16, 2013

5 executives of SIF on the chopping block over the failed million dollar Dangriga Market Project

There is big news tonight in respect of a million dollar project to upgrade the Dangriga market which is mired in scandal and corruption. An emergency meeting of the Board of the Social Investment Fund was held late this evening in Belmopan following our story last Friday. We can report that the heads of five executives of SIF are reportedly on the chopping block. SIF is funded by the Caribbean Development Bank through regular loans to the Government of Belize and through grants from its Basic Needs Trust Fund; the World Bank, the Commonwealth Debt Initiative, the European Union and through local counterpart funding from the government. By and large, the implementing agency was seen as above the fray, but tonight it is in disrepute. News Five first broke the story last Thursday when allegations of payoffs to the SIF executives surfaced. On Friday, we then showed the emails and cheques of the alleged payoffs by contractor of the market project, K and G Construction Limited, which is owned by Kenard Smart. Also on Friday in the afternoon, when SIF executives showed up at the worksite in Dangriga, they were met by angry investors who have lost a combined three-quarter of a million dollars in the failed project. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

On Friday, representatives of the Social Investment Fund, including Executive Director Daniel Cano and Project Coordinator Ernest Raymond, descended on a worksite in Dangriga where a market is currently under construction.  The objective was to assume responsibility of an assignment valued at a little over a million dollars, the costliest of all activities classified within the Belize Municipal Development Project.  Present were Gush and Emy Ramirez, a pair of local investors who stepped in when developer Kenard Smart defaulted on his duties.  The planned takeover, in the absence of the contractor, was met with legal resistance.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Attorney for Gush & Emy Ramirez

“I took the opportunity to serve on them letters that we wanted to bring to their attention prior, so that they know that there is an issue being disputed and it’s apart from payment.  There were certain statements they made in a report which were prejudicial to my client, so we had to bring that to their attention.”

 

According to Cano, the Social Investment Fund has been dealing directly with Smart on behalf of K&G Construction Ltd.  SIF’s role is to implement the Belize Municipal Development Project which is being financed by the Government of Belize through a loan from the World Bank.

 

Daniel Cano, Exec. Dir., Social Investment Fund

“SIF’s relationship with the contractor is documented through the contract and as he completes work they are paid for.  If he does not complete we cannot pay and after while when the works are not completed we have to take a decision on whether to continue or not and that’s basically what has happened here.”

 

Daniel Cano

That decision set in motion an attempt to relieve Gush and Emy of their responsibility to see the project through.  The involvement of their attorney prevented that from happening.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“There and then Mr. Cano then says to me, “I guess there won’t be a handing over today.”  And I said, “Well how could there be one.  One: Mr. Smart, who is the person that clearly they wrote a letter to wasn’t present because he is an Adventist and he doesn’t go out on a Friday evening.  So I said that they had to keep that in mind but I’m not there to speak for Mr. Smart.  Two: there was no key to hand over, Mr. Smart has it and he clearly didn’t send any senior person to even represent him, like he just abandoned [the project.]  And, three: I said when it came to my client clearly no notice was given to her and they can’t expect her to just walk away and leave all her material there, all her investment there.”

 

Amid the controversy are telltale signs that the relationship between SIF and K&G was going downhill since earlier this year.

 

Daniel Cano

“I am sure that what Mr. Smart has put forth to the contractor general, the contractor general will look at very closely.”

 

On March fourth, in a letter sent to Contractor General Godwin Arzu via email, Smart complained of underpayment for the market rehabilitation.  Smart says, “Recently, the last payment I sent in for a claim/payment certificate number six (for Dangriga) where I claimed sixty-four thousand dollars plus, but received only forty-one thousand dollars.  I went to SIF’s office accompanied by Mr. Allen, the engineer for the project, and met with Mr. Lionel Jimenez to sort the problem out.  Finally, after much ups and downs, he said it was a typographical error on his part, the computer never entered three parts of the claim so we were twenty-three thousand dollars short, said Mr. Jimenez.  …things like these are affecting my company drastically because I can’t make my payments on time with my workers and its affecting my credit facility.”

 

Gush and Emy Ramirez are also facing a similar hurdle trying to receive compensation for works completed.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“For one, my client needs to get her payment and for two, if they wish, once they pay her what she has expended she is very competent to get her workmen to continue the project if that’s what they wish.  But, at the minimum we expect that she needs to get her money paid.  And so that’s basically what occurred, Mr. Cano didn’t assure that there’s a specific date we’ll meet but he says that he will get back to me.  And so we’re waiting for them to get back to us because, of course, we know we have to take and consider all the options we have but we’re trying from an amicable point of view first.”

 

On August twenty-ninth, Emy Gilharry Ramirez rejected an invoice in the sum of eighty-three thousand, four hundred dollars which includes a bill of quantities, labor and material.  That request for payment was denied because she was being asked to make that submission to the Social Investment Fund on behalf of Smart’s cash-strapped company.

 

Daniel Cano

“At the time that Mr. Smart brought these financiers to us it was when we were again looking to terminate the contract because he had cash flow issues and in those discussions we asked that it be confirmed to SIF that sufficient funds were available to execute the project.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“Even by their own admission, they wrote a letter to my client’s bank saying that very soon she would have gotten a substantial payment and saying that there was point seven million dollars plus, still towards this project.  So as if to tell the bank don’t worry we have money to cover whatever your customer is guaranteeing.  I mean that is very misleading, which allowed this lady to go ahead and invest.”

 

That investment, as it stands, may only be recovered through impending litigation. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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6 Responses for “5 executives of SIF on the chopping block over the failed million dollar Dangriga Market Project”

  1. A Jew says:

    Bunch of thieves, that is what they are. No jail time?

  2. A Jew says:

    Bunch of thieves, and no jail time? Unbelievable..

  3. Rufus says:

    Why does this story seem to get more convoluted with each update? As usual poor Dangriga. This story will be a non story by next week. The contractor will get more jobs down the road and the incompetent folks in charge of this significant program and funding will continue to perform their duties as if nothing took place. Only in Belize.

  4. karim says:

    UDP hand pick buddies making sure they are not left out and is following the lead of father Barrow and nearly all of the other ministers. lol Is there anywhere we could look and there will be no corruption?

  5. Concern says:

    Wishful thinking Karim!…lol

  6. Humberto says:

    The contactor Smart Set upped all these executive because he was angry his contact was terminated. And the prime minister order the termination of the 5 executives because he didn’t wanted his party to look bad and wanted the dangriga people to go against him.
    this was a set up for your information

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