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Mar 10, 2020

Senators Spar over Validation Bill

In Belmopan this morning, senators sparred over the recently tabled Government Contracts (Validation) Bill, 2020. The controversial bill has a retroactive effect on seven multimillion dollars contracts that the Barrow Administration failed to have the House approved prior to its signing. The bill comes after Leader of Opposition, John Briceño wrote to international lending agencies, telling them that the contracts were not brought to parliament for approval, including the hundred and thirty million dollar for the upgrade of the Coastal Highway awarded to government’s favourite contractor Imer Hernandez.  The senators today engaged in a debate expressing support and disproval for the bill. 

 

Louis Zabaneh

Dr. Louis Zabaneh, P.U.P. Senator

“Coming back to cure that mistake does not cure any of the negative consequences of having signed those contracts already Mr. President. That is something for us to debate because we are being asked now to vote or not to vote on it. We need to make very clearly that we r being asked now to validate the violation of the law and then we use the word cure. Cure is not the right word there. You cannot cure the consequences of the mistake that has been made.”

 

Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, U.D.P. Senator

“You do not have a leader like ours. Our leader said I made an omission. Mea culpa, I did not laid them as the minister responsible for finance and for this, I did not lay them down. So what did he do? He admitted he was wrong. He admitted he made a mistake. So since we made a mistake what do you do? You now lay it down and make it with retrospective effect as allowed under the constitution.”

 

Isabel Bennett

Isabel Bennett, P.U.P. Senator

“If I can understand that one was excluded or maybe two, [then] I can say that there was not an intentional omission. But when I see one, when I see five, when I see all the way to seven contracts not being brought to the House for us to examine it then Mr. President as a conscientious Belizean I ask why was it not done? To my mind it was an obvious omission, intentional, deliberate.”

 

Osmany Salas

Osmany Salas, Senator for N.G.O.s

“When I looked at the various contracts, they referred to different tendering procedures. The coastal highway upgrading contracts, when you look at the documents within the contracts and the letters from the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General’s Ministry which speaks to the limited tendering procedure, not the open tendering procedure that section nineteen sub section six that same act refers to.  Why is the Contract Validation Bill referring only to section nineteen subsection six of the Finance and Reform Act when the various sets of contracts followed different tendering procedures.”

 

Carla Barnett

Dr. Carla Barnett, U.D.P. Senator

“It is not having anything to do with the procurement process or anything like that. It is the timing; the singular issue that this is fixing is the fact that they were not table within the thirty day period required by the law.”

 

Michel Chebat

Michel Chebat, Lead P.U.P. Senator

“This Government Contracts Validation Act 2020 is nothing more than a confession, Mr. President. It is a confession by the Prime Minister that he did not follow the provisions of the Finance and Audit Reform Act and it has consequences. Illegal behavior has consequences, Mr. President. I am not the one telling him that his actions were illegal. The Chief Justice just said it to him a couple weeks ago. Minister Faber, the same one who you don’t want for leader, said it in the House Friday.”

 

Michael Peyrefitte

“If we do not validate these contracts by the passing of this bill this bill the contractor can still collect and enforce their rights to the contract. So you want the contractors to collect the monies and don’t get the roads built. By coming here we force them to for what they have to be paid for pursuant to the contract. Are you people blind? These people who are the contracts and third parties can still enforce their rights even if we don’t validate these contracts. So we have to pay them any way. So why would a responsible Prime Minister knowing that we would have to pay on the contract not admit that he committed a wrong and come to parliament to correct that wrong.”


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