Of course the press went to City Hall seeking a response from the incumbent Mayor Darrell Bradley.
First, Mayor Bradley noted that the Council converted from a manual system to an electronic system, which has been helpful in addressing some of the auditors’ questions, but he says that any incompletion in previous audits is no indication of mismanagement to him.
Darrell Bradley – Mayor of Belize City
“When I took over office at that City Hall, every single transaction in City Council was a manual transaction. When we did our first audit, it was nightmare to have to locate all the documents and all the information. But we wanted to bring in auditors, so that the auditors could assure members of the public that those things were done in a consonant way.
One of the first thing that we did was to transition from a manual accounting system to a system which is electronic, where all checks are issued electronically. where we have Quickbooks. I recently opened the City Council website. and I can find easily all the minutes of every Council meeting, all the monthly financial statements, everything that’s broken down, which feeds into the audit.
So to say that an audit report identifies information, which is not missing but there are gaps, is to say nothing. You go to any large organization, a large organisation will have that. But to say that there is some smoking gun here, that’s an election gimmick and it’s misinformation.”
The auditors did provide an opinion as well as a management report for the Council’s various departments. Secondly, he responded to the question of the $1.3 million listed under legal fees in the Office of the Mayor. Most of that, he pointed out, is the $1.2 million judgment debt for Belize Waste Control that could not be fitted into any other category.
Mayor Darrell Bradley
“It was the one million dollars for the waste control judgment. There was fifty thousand dollars which went to Freddy More’s law firm for their legal fees, because of course we lost the case. There was an amount that was paid to our auditors, for the audit report. And there’s an amount that was paid for a consultant.
So if he could have requested the information the following working day, when this came out, and I provided that to him within minutes – I think it was one other reporter that came who also asked for the information, and she was given the information.”
For purposes of context, we note that in that portion of the interview he was criticizing one of our media colleagues for not approaching the Council in a timely manner to receive the information. Much of the 1-hour interview was in this vein – insisting that because his opponents have nothing better to bring to Belizeans in terms of ideas, they must resort to this kind of cheap attack.
In response to the question of overdependence on Central Government, Mayor Bradley said that while the Council has taken advantage of Central Government’s largesse for its major infrastructure projects, for examples, that is no different from other municipalities and this Council’s trend has been in other areas to move away from that kind of dependence.
Mayor Darrell Bradley
“The reality however is that in Belize City you have had a City Council, which over the past three has fought to make our city more autonomous. The municipal employee regulations, for example, creates a professional service of the Municipality. The Municipal Bond, which we are already paying back, has allowed us to expend twenty million dollars on projects. That’s something that was created by the Municipality, implemented by the Municipality, and now we’re paying back, because we’ve already paid back seven point five percent of the bond, which is one point five million dollars.
So, again, we have that facility to roll over. You’re creating systems to have a more autonomous Municipality that can discharge more of its functions for the improvement of the quality of life in residents of Belize City.
So to say that we are dependent on the central Government for finances, I would say that that belies the truth of the circumstances, but we do depend heavily on the Central Government, like every other Municipality in the world.”
The Mayor promised further revision of the City’s tax schemes, while committing to no new taxes in his next term. A manifesto outlining the plans for the City under a second Bradley administration is expected to be released later this week.