Posted: Friday, January 10, 2020. 9:08 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Cayo South area representative Julius Espat is anticipating a sharp rap on the knuckles by the Judiciary for the Executive, concerning its unauthorized spending of national funds.
Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin is to deliver judgment on January 21 in respect of a lawsuit heard last year concerning whether $1.3 billion spent and approved by supplementary appropriation bills over 10 years is void and unconstitutional, and whether to restrain the current and future Prime Minister, Financial Secretary and Attorney General from embarking on that type of spending.
Part of this funding was for “Christmas cheer,” organized since 2011 at a total cost of $8.42 million as we reported in December. The Opposition received $1.08 million of this total, about an eighth.
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Julius Espat told us that it’s a matter of priorities: “The executive determines the direction of government policy, and how the people’s money is spent. I personally believe though, that the lack of basic services in our rural communities should take precedence over Christmas cheer. For example, one million dollars would be far more beneficial to our communities if it would have been spent on our much needed water systems. It would also be a more equitable way to distribute the very scarce financial resources of a developing country like Belize.”
As for his own involvement, Espat said he refused the funds in 2013 and 2014 because of the Petrocaribe source (he had been elected in 2012).
At the same time, his case in court against the legality of spending the Petrocaribe funds went by the wayside as a combination of the 2015 general election and the new Petrocaribe Loans Act to make legal what he sees as illegal.
But Espat told us, “We waited and monitored this continued illegal spending and after further analysis, we decided to file another lawsuit that is now before the courts. In court, GOB has acknowledged that they have acted unlawfully by spending the people’s money without approval from parliament. On the 21st of January the CJ will give his final judgment on that and on our submittal that the law that was passed to retrospectively make what was wrong right is unconstitutional.”
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