Posted: Monday, February 17, 2020. 7:45 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dean Barrow, says the Government plans to appeal the “entirely unsatisfactory” ruling of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin made on January 31st.
Chief Justice Benjamin found that spending of approximately $100 million in 2013-2014, for which there was no parliamentary approval, was a direct violation of the Constitution by Dean Barrow and Financial Secretary Joseph Waight.
Further spending of approximately $1.4 billion dollars covered in 21 supplementary appropriation bills brought to the House over a decade was also found to violate the Constitution and to be null and void.
But the Government was offered a chance to fix it, by submitting an amendment to the Constitution itself to the National Assembly.
Writing to Leader of the Opposition John Briceño, the Prime Minister states that “there is as yet no reasoned, written judgment produced. We intend to appeal and seek a stay and there is, in any event, the Chief Justice’s own 6-month suspension of his injunction. We, therefore, have no intention of seeking any Constitutional amendment any time soon. It, therefore, follows that your attempt to lay down conditions for any cooperation you might consider giving the UDP, is merely another empty charade. If you actually meant to be taken seriously, I tell you now that –no doubt fittingly – you are on a fool’s errand.”
Earlier the Prime Minister condemned Briceño and his People’s United Party (PUP) as “the most outrageous hypocrites and frauds ever known in the modern politics and governance of our country.”
On the matter of supplementary appropriations, the Prime Minister challenges Briceño, arguing that there was no objection during the debate on the various bills passed by Parliament, four of which, he reminds, “were to approve prior spending done by your PUP Administration,” and notes that the practice was started by the P.U.P. and enshrined in the Constitution.
Stating that both parties had agreed that the Constitution “expressly permitted prior spending and subsequent Parliamentary approval” as “a matter of the exigencies of the public service and financial administration,” the Prime Minister dismisses as two-faced posturing and naked dishonesty” the P.U.P. about-turn.
The Prime Minister defended the handling of the Petrocaribe Loans Act and the general program which the court upheld, insisting that he had kept his promise to present to the House the accurate amounts spent from the program because “the amount being borrowed on a continuous basis under the Venezuela program could never be known beforehand, and so could not command prior approval.”
And he mocks the copying of the letter to the various international financial institutions, citing the 2007 decision by the World Bank to cut off lending to Belize because “of the PUP’s serial misdeeds and utter lack of transparency and accountability regarding WB funds.” That relationship has since been restored.
And with regard to the issue of the Contractor-General, the Prime Minister maintains that Government tried its best to fill the vacancy, and in the meantime submitted contracts for approval to the Solicitor General and details presented to the House. With that, he ends, he “utterly rejects” the “specious demands” raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
We have sought a response from the Opposition Leader as well as a copy of the letter he sent on February 14th.
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