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Jul 10, 2009

Commission of Inquiry to investigate purchasing practices

Story PictureAccording to the Prime Minister, he met earlier today with three members of the B.M.D.U. and he outlined the work of the Commission to be chaired by a Judicial Officer.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I made clear especially to the doctors that there is already a mediation process in trade. Certain things from the time the minister first met with the doctors were agreed, in terms of expanded board representation, for example. The minister conceded that the doctors ought to have a representative on the board. We subsequently spoke to the nurses, they want representation on the Board. They’re getting that as well. I was referred to a report that’s of some vintage that apparently dealt with this question of an expanded board and it would seem to me that that report, in that regard, ought to be followed. The point I’m trying to make is that the mediation, which was interrupted because the doctors had walked off, but which is set to resume on Monday, should proceed and I can’t see why there should not be a resolution of the problem in terms of the way forward. When the commission of inquiry is finished with its work, while it will be focused on the wrong doing, we don’t doubt wish to make some larger recommendations as to structures. But the commission may take some months, this is an inquiry that will be held in public; witness will have to be summoned, reports have to be written and in the meantime, we should move ahead with respect to the urgent, immediate remedial action. That can only happen if the doctors and the board will agree in the context of the mediation process that continues on Monday.”

“The meeting that I had with the doctors, I thought was very productive. I will not suggest that they gave me any undertaking, but I certainly came away with the impression that both processes would be allowed to work; the commission of inquiry process and the mediation process and that in the meantime, there would be no action that would result in any interruption of services at the KHMH. Now I stress that I was not given an undertaking to this effect but it is my impression that that is how the doctors are prepared to move.”

“In the event the mediation doesn’t work, in the event there is a breakdown on Monday, then the next step in that process, which involves the Labour Commissioner and the Minister of Labour, would be for the Minister to appoint an arbitration panel for the minister to submit the difference of opinion to binding arbitration. That can take place simultaneously with the Commission of Inquiry. I would propose to have that Commission chaired by a judicial officer, a judge of the Supreme Court or perhaps the chief magistrate, but a judicial officer. I will ask the National Trade Union Congress of Belize to propose one commissioner and the Ministry of Health to propose the other Commissioner.”

“It would seem to me that the auditor would then be made, as it were, subject to the commission of inquiry. In other words, that auditor must be a resource person for the commission of inquiry. It’s going to be difficult, I think, for the commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of things without the professional assistance. I am convinced that to put it mildly, a great deal of explanation would be needed to justify some of the purchases at the prices at which they took place from De la Fuente Pharmacy.”

Barrow said the Commission should be operational in two weeks. It also came out during the conference that the three thousand five hundred dollar stipend being paid to Fabro will be subject to the inquiry as well.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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