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Sports Council lost more than a million dollars in 2015, 2016

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Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2020. 6:07 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Audit Institution’s performance audit has found that the National Sports Council (NSC), between April 2015 and March 2016, lost $416,228.25 due to embezzlement and redirection of funds by certain persons and entities including, it is alleged, a former Minister of Government, as well as other sources of funds. The total amount believed lost is more than 1 million dollars.

 The report was leaked to us this week ahead of its planned tabling in the House of Representatives tomorrow, Friday. 

Senior Accounts Clerk Ivan Ayuso created an elaborate system to reward himself handsomely, avoiding detection by his superiors. Other employees were also collecting double payments. 

There was a shortfall of more than $56,000 in monthly subventions in the period under review for District Sports Committees which was never explained.
More than $16,000 was not properly accounted for from funds collected for rental of spaces on Belize City sports facility walls for advertising.
$55,000 was budgeted for the annual national basketball championship in 2015 and teacher training in softball, neither of which was held. Then acting director of sports, Patrick Henry, indicated that the bank took the money for the former to cover an overdraft and the latter case was diverted to other goods and services.

And most damningly, GO Enterprises Limited, the concern of then Minister of State Herman Longsworth, collected $75,000 for works at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex after it was formed in July of 2015. $45,000 of that money disappeared into the personal and political committee accounts of Longsworth himself. That, the auditors warned, was grounds for prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act.

Additionally, contractor Imer Hernandez had a “handshake” contract to dump up ground at the Marion Jones, and the lavish fence constructed around the facility at the same time cost more than $371,000 – glaringly over expensive compared to regular construction prices, according to the report.

Stadium facilities visited by the Audit team from 2016 to 2018 – from the MCC Grounds to Norman Broaster Stadium in Cayo to Punta Gorda – were found to be in severe disrepair due to the diverted funding not going for their repair.

But how did so much “hustling” go on? The Audit team concludes that procedures were lax, communication poor, and there was little to no oversight. Current Director Ian Jones, in a rebuttal sent almost a year ago, points to the new procedures and institutional oversight in place.
We reached chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Julius Espat on Wednesday, but he said he needed time to fully review aspects of the report before giving public comment.


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