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Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Sale of Government Assets to be sent to investigators

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Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2022. 12:40 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Cabinet has reviewed the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Sale of Government Assets, issued last Friday by Commissioners Andrew Marshalleck (chairman), Luke Martinez (National Trade Union Congress of Belize representative), and Marcello Blake (private sector representative).

It has directed “that the report be further submitted to the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for any advice and action deemed appropriate and necessary,” a press statement said.

Cabinet has approved the full public release of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry and issued a condemnation “in the strongest possible terms the detailed reports of mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption, which have come to so clearly define the United Democratic Party Government from 2008 to 2020.

After five public hearings and questioning of 22 witnesses, the Commission found among other things that the then-most senior officials in Government – former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow and Financial Secretary Joseph Waight – were neither able nor apparently concerned enough to follow regulations governing the entry into sales contracts by the Government for the sale of government assets. This facilitated ‘a completely unbridled exercise of power,’ which resulted in ‘executions of sales of government assets during the relevant period [being] all in breach of applicable regulations and well-known tendering procedures.’”

Further, not only were motor vehicles and other assets of the Government sold to “favoured persons” including those with “obvious political connections” at less than market value and a loss to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, there were no lawful procedures established to secure the best value for assets sold, and several outgoing Ministers of Government took advantage to secure what they wanted in person or via third parties.

The Commission recommends the amendment of the Finance and Audit Reform Act to expand the regulations governing the sale of Government assets and that any connection between, on the one hand, the sale of the motor vehicle to Hugo Patt and, on the other hand, the land sales to Zhourong Li be further investigated with a view to prosecution, and that action be taken by the Clerk of the National Assembly, (if necessary in court), to determine the qualification of Hugo Patt and Michael Peyrefitte to continue to sit in the National Assembly in light of the contracts to purchase government assets disclosed to the Commission.

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