Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014. 6:00 pm CST.
A number of key Cabinet decisions were announced today via a press release from the Government Press Office.
The first deals with the much publicized case of cheques from the Belize Airports Authority (BAA) purportedly issued to Minister of State Edmund Castro and persons or entities associated with him.
According to the official statement “only three cheques were issued in the personal name of Minister Castro. One of those was for per diem in the course of the Minister’s official travel on BAA business, another was for assistance in burying the Minister’s mother, and the third was to pay for assistance with sports in Belize Rural North.”
The official release goes on to explain that “the other cheques not in Castro’s name, but issued to help the Minister in his constituency, did not amount to even a quarter of the seventy alleged by the Opposition.”
The government release says that after hearing from Minister Castro himself, “Cabinet was of the view that while there was nothing illegal in the actions of either the BAA or the Minister, there was poor judgment leading to a perception of abuse of authority on both sides.”
Therefore, the Prime Minister has decided that:
“1. The portfolio of Civil Aviation, which includes the Belize Airports Authority and over which Minister Castro exercised day to day jurisdiction, will be removed from the Ministry of Transport and placed with the Ministry of Tourism.
2. The Solicitor General and the Financial Secretary will meet with all Statutory Bodies to review operational protocols and advise on proper administration. 3. The current Directors of the BAA will be asked to resign.”
The other matter which has been in the public domain for quite some time has been the issue of Cayo Northeast representative Honorable Elvin Penner.
And the Prime Minister, according to the official release, in a move designed to “resolutely act to put a stop to Ministerial or official wrongdoing” has now “required ex- Minister Elvin Penner to turn in the Government vehicle that he kept, after removal from Cabinet, as Chair of a House Committee.”
The government release also announced that “Hon. Penner will also lose the chairmanship of that House Committee on Public Utilities, Transport and Communications.”
On the matter of accountability, the official release says that Prime Minister Barrow as Minister of Finance “has instructed the Financial Secretary to require every Area Representative, upon pain of losing the stipend, to account for the $2,300 monthly allocation provided for constituency office rental and secretarial services.”
The official release ends by announcing that the new Integrity Commission will be constituted at the next sitting of the Senate.
This follows consultations between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
The new Integrity Commission will be chaired by the former director of the Financial Intelligence Unit Marilyn Williams.
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