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Jan 16, 2020

Audit Reveals Half a Million Dollars Embezzlement at Sports Council!

Still reeling from the Lev Derman scandal, the government is hit by yet another black eye. An audit of the finances of the National Sports Council by the Auditor General is revealing massive fraud involving well-known names.  The report outlines serious breaches in government regulations at the N.S.C., where huge amounts of cash were paid to highly-connected persons and others in the employ of the council.  The long and short is that the N.S.C.’s budget was used as the personal account of a number of persons.  The report for the financial year April first 2015 to March thirty-first 2016 was received at the office of the PM since last October, but only now to be laid before the House of Representatives. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

The Auditor General’s report on the finances of the National Sports Council is revealing.  Questionable cash transactions, discrepancies between National Sports Council and Go Enterprises Limited, embezzlement in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and suspected fraud are all being revealed by the audit.

The audit covered a period of one year, April first, 2015 to March thirty-first, 201. There are many transgressions; and we’ll name a few. One of the most serious allegations is the embezzlement of almost half a million dollars. The Auditor-General says that during the year in review four hundred and sixteen thousand, two hundred and twenty-eight dollars and twenty-five cents appeared to have been embezzled from the National Sports Council.  According to the Auditor General Dorothy Bradley, Senior Accounts Clerk Ivan Ayuso had “manipulated the pay sheets and may have siphoned the money into his personal accounts at three commercial banks.”

Herman Longsworth

The audit also names Consul General for Belize in New York, Herman Longsworth, who was the then Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Area Representative for Albert.  He was the principal of Go Enterprises Limited and was reportedly contracted to do some works at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex. The company, according to the audit report, received a mobilization fee of seventy-five thousand dollars. Forty thousand dollars of that amount was withdrawn from the company’s account and deposited into the U.D.P. Albert Division/Committee. The report also says that five thousand dollars was deposited into Longsworth’s personal bank account. The audit was not able to review any contractual agreement between the Council and Go Enterprise and that is because none was presented upon request. According to Former Acting Director of the Council, Patrick Henry, no contract was prepared. This is a violation of public procurement protocols. Henry, whose name appears several times for numerous questionable transactions, told the audit team that Longsworth had called him, saying that a contractor with an invoice for payment would be sent over. Henry made the payment. According to the Project Manager for the sporting complex, Virgil Palacio, he saw Longsworth bring persons to work on the fence. When questioned about it, Longsworth said that he was not responsible for hiring any entity and he did not send any workers. The company’s directors told the audit team that they were unaware that the company had gotten any contract from the National Sports Council. The directors also said that they neither received monies nor set up a bank account for the company. They also shared that Longsworth was part of the setting up of Go Enterprises Limited.  One of the directors told the audit team that Longsworth owned Go Enterprises and he had her sign documents allowing only him to write and issue cheques.

Imer Hernandez

Then there is the case of Imer Hernandez, a favored contractor for the U.D.P. administration, who the PM says is smelling like a rose. Two hundred thousand dollars was disbursed from the National Sports Council for landfill works. The report states that no contract was drawn up and that Hernandez was the contractor. In this case the tendering process was ignored and Hernandez was paid in four disbursements of fifty thousand dollars.  The payment was approved by Patrick Henry. Henry told the audit team that Longsworth asked him to pay Hernandez. But according to the report, it was Henry who wrote to the ministry asking for a de-reservation of two hundred thousand dollars for landfill purposes.  The request was approved and the monies were deposited into the council’s bank account in 2015. At that time, the council was in an unauthorized overdraft to the tune of fourteen thousand dollars.

The bank immediately withdrew the amount. The audit team believes that the monies were not used for its intended purpose.

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry’s name appears more times than one could count. He was the former acting Sports Director and according to the audit, he was collecting double salary. Henry was receiving a monthly salary of two thousand five hundred dollars and a monthly allowance of one thousand five hundred dollars. He was questioned for several suspicions cash transactions.  For the period in question, the council had an approved budget for one point nine million dollars.  In 2016, the then Director of Sports, Ritchel Dominguez, through a questionnaire, revealed that the council’s operating budget was one point five million dollars. Henry was provided the same questionnaire where questions on the budgets were not answered. He reportedly gave erroneous budget amounts to board members. In November 2015, Henry wrote to the ministry asking for twenty-five thousand dollars for a Teacher Training in Softball project. Henry says he was not aware that the monies were deposited and so the project did not materialize. He said that because of the general elections, all programmes were put on hold. The elections were held in November 2015 and therefore the project could not be affected as the funds had been requested on the eighteenth of November 2015.  In fact, the twenty-five thousand dollars was expended, leaving the council with an overdraft of about ten thousand dollars. The monies were spent on goods and services not for the purposes initially requested. Henry also made a request for thirty-thousand dollars for the National Primary School Basketball Championship games. He further requested forty-seven thousand dollars more. The ministry wrote to Henry asking for details as to how the thirty thousand dollars was used. The letter went unanswered. Henry told the audit team that he doesn’t know if the games were held because all activities were put on hold due to general elections. It was later revealed that the bank took the money for an unauthorized overdraft of thirty three thousand dollars. Then there are cheques made to Edwin Castro, Shawn Lino and Tifanny Huesner, all employees for the council. Castro received a cheque of fourteen thousand dollars while Lino received one for twenty-two thousand dollars and Heusner for ten thousand dollars. The cheques were cashed, but according to the individuals the monies were returned to Henry who approved the cheque.

Henry was also in charge of half a million dollars which was disbursed to the council for the End of Year Schools Sports Programme, also known as the Petro Caribe Summer Camp. The council possessed a complete file on the programme. That file was given to Henry by an Administrative Officer who said that Henry did not return it. Henry said he left it in the office. Of the half a million dollars, ninety-six participants received grant funding. Twenty-six received a grant higher than the maximum five thousand dollars. Five thousand dollars of the Petro Caribe programme was given to Tiffanny Heusner via cheque. She said she cannot remember receiving the cheque. A second five thousand-dollar cheque was written to Heusner. She did recall cashing a ten thousand dollars cheque under the Petro Caribe Summer Camp and the monies were handed to Henry.

The audit revealed that the district sports committee did not receive their full monthly subventions. In fact the committees only received fifty-eight percent or seventy-eight thousand nine hundred and forty-nine dollars of the budgeted one hundred and thirty-four thousand. No documents were provided showing how the shortfall of more than fifty thousand dollars was used.

Reporting for News Five I am Hipolito Novelo.

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