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Nov 17, 2006

C.J.: printery sale “improper” but contracts stand

Story PictureTonight both sides are claiming victory in the case of the Printers Association against the Government of Belize regarding the sale of the Printing Department three years ago. Following the sale, the Printers Association accused the government of violating the law by not selling the asset through public tender and alleged ethical wrongdoing by awarding all government printing jobs to the new entity, Print Belize, and maintained that the price tag of the facility, two point four million dollars, was disproportionate to value. In short, the Association asked the Supreme Court to declare the agreement and contracts void and of no effect. In delivering his verdict today, Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh ruled that quashing the contracts would be “seriously disruptive to the administration as important government printing business would not be carried out”. However, Conteh would go on to say that the applicants had proved their case in that “the award of the two contracts was outside the statutory tender regime and was therefore improper”. For that, the C.J. awarded the Printers Association twenty-five thousand dollars as what he called a “cold comfort”.

Elson Kaseke, Attorney for G.O.B.
?The judgment of the honourable Chief Justice was that there is no compliance with the financial and stores orders in respect of the award of the two contracts. They say they must have gone out to tender. But equally and more importantly is the fact that he is saying that because of the discretion in the grant of relief, which is given to a court, he is not going to quash the two contracts. That means in effect that the sale of the government Printery to Print Belize remains in effect, the contract for the printing services, government printing services will run its course and will expire I think in two years time after which it will then go to tender. So, the complainants have not had any victory at all in this case.?

Lois Young, Attorney, Printer?s Association
?It was a good victory for the Printer?s Association. Chief Justice found that the financial orders were in effect were lawful and they were breached by awarding those two contracts to Print Belize. We?re very happy about that, we think it?s a great victory for Belize and for the future and some powerful statements are made in that judgment, that people should take notice of.?

Harry Lawrence, Printers? Association
?The judge made an award of twenty-five thousand dollars, costs, which will go to the Belize Printer?s Association, which is some satisfaction for us. After all the expenses we incurred in bringing this matter before the court.?

Amparo Noble, Printers? Association
?All I can say is that we?re very happy, we think it?s a victory. We think it?s more a victory for the people of this country and I think we can demand some accountability as to how the public funds are being managed.?

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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