The scalding evidence of Minister Castro’s cheques raised many concerns, and according to Hon. Francis Fonseca, the Prime Minister has a responsibility to deal with the matter and stressed that this is the not the first time that Minister Castro has been involved in such mischief.
However, the Prime Minister says that his power to reprimand the Minister stops at public chastisement. Furthermore, PM Barrow also claims he spoke to the CEO of the Belize Airport authority who concedes that he did sign the checks and affirmed that the CEO did not do anything illegal.
“I am not sure what are the rules that govern the Belize Airport Authority, but in the normal court, the practices amounts below a certain level, the CEO would have the authority or the discretion to approve of those and a number of those would fall into that 0 category for $1,500; anything above a certain level, the Board would have to approve.
I spoke to the CEO, and he said: “whatever cheques he signed; whatever cheques that are above $5,000, he would have signed pursuant to Board Authorization”. He did concede that he signed cheques for small amounts in the excercise of his discretion. But again, there is nothing, in the face of it, legally wrong; There is, in the face of it politically wrong, and I accept that.
I have made it very clear what I have stand; I have said it today, which amounts to a public chastisement as a Minister, but I cannot punish him because he did not do anything illegal”.
Hon. Minister Edmund Castro was conveniently absent from yesterday’s House meeting.
The Chamber of Commerce is sounding off on this matter, saying it objects to the notion that government ministers can treat statutory bodies within their portfolios as though they are their own private businesses.
The Chamber affirms: “The suggestion of ignorance is no justification for the inappropriate actions of both ministers and the board governing the statutory body, both of which in our view, have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the public purse.”
The release continues, “If our economy is to improve, sound financial practices and the most transparent of good governance must be applied. The private sector, in its struggle to bear the burden of business costs, demands that the government apply those principles, including anti-corruption laws and rules defining and preventing conflict of interest.”