Orange Walk Town Council’s Belize Bank account frozen
The Orange Walk Town Council is in a serious quandary. Early this morning, its accounts at the Belize Bank were frozen…as in the Council cannot access even a dollar. Here’s the problem in a nutshell. Back in 2010, the Ministry of Finance approved a request for an overdraft facility at the Belize Bank. That request was made by the previous municipal administration. The Ministry of Finance guaranteed the overdraft of one hundred and ten thousand dollars at the bank. In April 2011, the Ministry extended the facility by one year, cautioning that administration to pay off the overdraft within that time. But it wasn’t done, and there has been a change of office. The new administration discovered the huge overdraft when it assumed office in 2012. Since then, they’ve been trying to get the Ministry of Finance to assist in dealing with that situation. This morning, a frazzled Mayor Kevin Bernard showed us copies of numerous letters the Council sent to the Prime Minister, the Financial Secretary, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Local Government, but with no response. The bank resorted to treating the uncollected overdraft as a non-performing loan and proceeded to freeze the accounts of the council.
Kevin Bernard, Mayor, Orange Walk
“Earlier this year in February, the bank wrote us telling us that they required full payment of their overdraft facility. During 2012 in fact on March twenty-ninth I wrote the Prime Minister regarding the overdraft…that plus many other issues that we encountered – the Social Security issue, the Income Tax issue, many issues that we faced when we got in – but one of the big things was the overdraft and so several letters had been sent leading up to February 2013 when the bank wrote us saying that they demanded full payment. We wrote the Ministry again to try to seek their assistance. Since then we have not gotten any reply from anybody from the Ministry of Finance in reference to that specific issue. Today my administrator informed me that the bank informed him that all of our accounts, our two accounts that we carry, have been blocked. Thus the Council is left stranded. We have finance in the accounts but we can’t do anything. We can’t operate, we cannot cut any more checks, we cannot function; our accounts have been blocked. This has really put a damper on us at this point in time.”
“Just to verify, Mayor. You’re saying that in terms of salaries, in terms of operating expenses, nothing? The council can’t move at all?”
“We cannot move anything at all because we operate basically from the bank. So it is something that we are looking up. Immediately after I got this information I wrote the Fin Sec…we are now leaving to Belmopan to go and meet with the Financial Secretary and the representative from Local Government to try and see how we can get this matter solved.”
As was stated, Mayor Bernard was on his way to meet with the officials at the Ministries of Finance and Local Government. When we checked with him this afternoon, he told us that both departments were aware of the situation. Unfortunately, the only commitment given at this time is that government will try to resolve the matter soon. That, of course, is no comfort to the Council, which must meet salaries for its employees by Friday.Email This Story