On Wednesday, we told you that the Belmopan City Council workers and Transport officers were, once again, not paid on time. Workers told us that the issue has been reoccurring since April. On Wednesday, during their designated break, the members of the Christians Workers Union walked out of the City Council office and left their work stations to protest the fact that they had not been paid. Over 20 members stood at the main entrance of the City Hall building to send a message to the council. The Union sent a letter to the Council last week when reports were made to the Union that employees were not paid. A letter was sent back to the Union signed by the City Administrator saying the workers would be paid, however, at midday on Wednesday, they had still not been paid. Late that Wednesday evening, CWU’s president, Evan X Hyde Jr., travelled all the way to Belmopan to meet with those workers. We were told by the Belmopan City Administrator Ralston Frazer on Wednesday that City Council Employees are not being paid on time because City Council Revenues have not been coming in on time, over the past few months. Those remarks have prompted us to question whether or not the Belmopan City Council has an overdraft facility agreement with a Local Bank that could be used to facilitate employees’ payments. This morning, former Belmopan Mayor, Simeon Lopez, called in to Plus TV’s Rise and Shine, where he told the show’s host that the Council did have an overdraft facility of three Hundred Thousand Dollars under his leadership. He added that the over draft was paid off in full, and the facility was shut down before he left office.
Simeon Lopez, Former Mayor of Belmopan: We closed it down, I never said that we will never have another overdraft facility, but we closed it, we paid off. We had a $300,000 overdraft facility that we could have reached into whenever we were experiencing financial difficulty. But we did not, we closed it down and we never did go into overdraft with the bank again. So I don’t know if this present council have that facility as well, that they this amount of money that they can reach into but you have to pay interest on that regularly and that is a big burden again.
Former Mayor Lopez said that proper financial management under his leadership contributed to the shutdown of the facility.
Louis Wade Jr, Host of Rise and Shine, Plus TV: But you are saying that, my understanding is that you reached a point where you actually didn’t have to go into overdraft because of how you were managing the City Council.
Simeon Lopez, Former Mayor of Belmopan: Yes that is true and one of the reasons was also because when the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) when they were doing the Belmopan Municipal Development Project, where you had to bring down your overdraft facility to 75 percent of what it is and we decided to clear it off altogether. So we cleared off that facility and we did not use it again, although I was encouraged to open another one, I refused to do that.
Louis Wade Jr, Host of Rise and Shine, Plus TV: Right, now that’s good fiscal management.
Simeon Lopez, Former Mayor of Belmopan: I know it’s a burden to the council because the interest is heavy, it’s a large amount of money that you have to pay.
We were unable to speak with Mayor Khalid Belise this week because he is out of the country. One employee told us that Mayor Belisle frequently leaves the country and that he has not been in office as much over the past few months. While the City Administrator Ralston Frazer indicated that Mayor Belisle is out on a business trip; are his overseas trips being sponsored by the Belmopan City Council? Lopez told Rise and Shine’s host that while he was in office, he refused to accept several overseas invitations because the sponsorship would have come directly from public funds. [
Simeon Lopez, Former Mayor of Belmopan: But on another note too, you are questioning about the Mayor’s flying, going around the world or something like that. Well, I know all the time when I was there, when I would be living the country only for sponsored trips. Whenever they invite me to any other meetings and the council would have to provide for my own ticket, I refused to go, I never used the council’s money to buy tickets or to go on any trip like that. It has to be sponsored and so I would accept but otherwise, no.
We tried to contact the Council today to find out if there is a current overdraft facility in place; however we were unable to reach anyone. We will try again on Monday.