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New Car Dealer Association condemns government purchase of vehicles from unauthorized dealer, demands answers from Ministry of Health

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Posted: Friday, March 19, 2021. 1:18 pm CST.

By Benjamin Flowers: This week it came to light that the Ministry of Health and Wellness gave a $357,000 tender for six Mazda pickup trucks to Auto Zone, which is not an authorized vehicle dealer in Belize, and the Belize New Car Dealers Association (BNCDA) wants to know why.

The BNCDA issued a statement condemning the tender calling for it to be canceled and called for an immediate investigation into how Auto Zone was awarded the tender in the first place.

The association demands that the MOHW answer a number of questions including: “Why did the Ministry of Health vehicle tender not follow proper tender protocols? Why was a member of the Ministry of Finance not included in the tender approval process? Why was the tender approved for a manufacturer’s authorized dealer on March 4 and reissued to an associate of the Minister on March 11 at a greatly inflated cost? What is the Minister’s relationship with the owner of Auto Zone? Why has the Ministry of Health decided to buy vehicles from a Guatemalan dealer instead of supporting local Belizean dealers who currently have vehicles IN STOCK? Where did the Foreign Exchange (FOREX) come from for this purchase?”

The organization notes that the Central Bank is currently not approving FOREX permits for vehicle imports adding to what it calls “irregularities” with the tender.  The association also noted that only an authorized dealer can issue a Manufacturer’s Warranty, offer Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts, and Certified Service Support.

“When you buy from a manufacturer authorized dealer, you get a vehicle specifically designed for Belize’s market,” the BNCDA said. “Our membership includes Belizean companies that are registered as manufacturer authorized dealers of the major automotive brands represented in Belize. Together we employ over three hundred (300) Belizeans, many of whom are currently experiencing the hardship of salary cuts as a result of the COVID pandemic and ensuing economic stagnation.”

The association notes that the government’s decision not only affects auto dealers, but by extension, we support many local businesses such as body shops, washers, detailers, tire repair, recovery services, machine shops, and customs brokers as well. 

The issue surfaced after Caribbean Motors, the exclusive authorized dealer of Mazda brand vehicles in Belize, wrote a letter to Contractor General Omar Mitchell, expressing its discontent with the tender. When that letter was leaked to the media, the MOHW countered with a statement that said that all tendering procedures had been followed and that Auto Zone, won the tender from a list of seven that were submitted. The Ministry also accused Caribbean Motors of trying to defame Auto Zone.

Not long after another letter was leaked to the media, from Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, which showed discontent with how the tender was issued and advised the MOHW to ensure that a representative from the Ministry of Finance sits on the tender evaluation committee in the future. 

 

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