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Nov 20, 2019

FinSec Says Government Regularly Exceeds Approved Limit of Public Monies

Joseph Waight

While PM Barrow and AG Peyrefitte’s names appear as defendants on the claim, neither government officials appeared in court today.  Instead, the financial secretary appeared alone and was represented by Queens Counsel Justin Simon.  Under cross-examination, Waight admitted that government often exceeded the prescribed limit set under the Finance and Audit Reform Act.  For his part, Senior Counsel Courtenay, legal representative for the People’s United Party, argued that there was no unforeseen need to spend over a billion dollars without following the procedures set out in that relevant piece of legislation.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for P.U.P.

“First of all, this claim brought by the two leaders has to do with the public’s money.  It has to do with whether or not a government can take one point three billion dollars, spend it how it wishes without any accountability to parliament.  The financial secretary was very clear in his answers.  He said that the money that was spent was spent because there was an urgent and unforeseen need.  I brought to his attention that it was hundreds of millions of dollars.  He stuck to his line but I think anybody will know that you cannot spend one point three billion dollars as urgent and unforeseen.  He accepted that in fact this was done by special warrants issued by the prime minister.  He accepted that the prime minister was aware when he was issuing those warrants that the money had not been approved by the National Assembly and that he advised and informed the prime minister that the money was not there, it had not been approved by the National Assembly.  Nevertheless, they proceeded.  So they proceeded knowing fully well that they did not have legislative approval and the Finance and Audit Reform Act sets a limit which can be exceeded and he told the court that they exceeded that limit on a regular basis and they did so knowingly.  It seems to me that what we achieved in the cross examination was that in truth and in fact, the Government of Belize has spent one point three billion dollars in violation of the law and doing it with afore knowledge.  They knew what they were doing.  It is our hope that the Chief Justice will hear the submissions tomorrow and after hearing from both sides he will issue the declarations that this type of thing was unlawful, that it was contrary to the constitution and that he will issue an injunction to restrain any Minister of Finance in the future from doing it.”


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