With the Immigration scandal dominating headlines for much of the last few weeks, few remember the scandal of the Social Investment Fund (SIF) being unable to monitor contractor Kennard Smart at the site of the renovated Dangriga Town Market because of alleged internal bribe-and-gift-taking that resulted in the termination of four officers and resignation of executive director Daniel Cano. The issue was even taken to the steps of the National Assembly by angry Dangriga residents who complained of being disenfranchised. Since then the two sides have met, but the solution being proposed by the Government, Mayor of Dangriga Gilbert Swazo told PLUS News, is not satisfactory to him or the residents of the Culture Capital.
“We had a meeting with the Project Steering Committee. That was on the first of October. During that meeting SIF offered a tentative way ahead. That tentative way ahead is not in any way or form offering any solution to the current problem. The people of Dangriga are wanting their market now, or as early as possible. What that meeting was suggesting is that a market which should have been completed in one year will now be completed in two years. It is now 39 days since the termination, and 441 days since a functional market was handed over to SIF. This essentially means that it will take over 700 plus days for a functional market to be handed back to the people of Dangriga, and the Dangriga Town Council.”
Mayor Swazo noted that no apology has been made to the residents of Dangriga or to the vendors and the Town Council. He explains that pending a review of the site there will be a decision made about the plan going forward.
Mayor Gilbert Swazo:
“The program, he’s talking about no earlier than January 2014 and with a likely completion date in no earlier than May 2014. So, that is not good enough for us. We believe that the time wasted, 39 days, could have certainly been enough time for the market do be completed within that time. The Opperational Manual in which they are referring to is that of the World Bank Standards, is indicating that they have to, in the first instance, conduct an assessment on the value of what is on site at this time. They are saying that by the end of this week and certainly no later than next week, that assessment would have to be complete at which time, they will ascertain which is the true value of the material and the true value of what is on the project site with a view then to ascertain if the $780,000 that they claim is left within for the completion of the market to confirm if that will be enough to complete the market as it is”.
But in the furor over the incomplete market and the plight of Dangrigans, Kennard Smart has slipped off the radar. Will he be held responsible for his failure to complete the market on time? The authorities appear to be reluctant to do so, Mayor Swazo told us.
Mayor Gilbert Swazo:
“They’re not offering any definitive solution. They’re not offering any way in terms of taking Smart of anyone to court. They are saying that at the end of that assessment, which is expected to be completed at the end of this week or certainly by the end of next week , that will determine their likelihood of action. This is nothing new or nothing strange, because you may be aware of the fact that the south, and Dangriga in particular, has been strangled as it relates to development by this current Government. So this is just part and parcel of their strategy, to continue to strangulate the south, and Dangriga within it. So we are not looking forward for any development per say from this government, but we are demanding, and we are mobilizing our people, mobilizing the vendors, with a view so that they can hear the loud voices that are crying out for the alleviation of the suffering and inconvenience that has been caused.”
Mayor Swazo was speaking with us on Tuesday following his party’s press conference in Belize City, held at Independence Hall.