On Monday morning the People’s United Party invited members of the press to hear their conclusions as to the independent audit for the 2013-14 fiscal year of the Belize City Council.
It is two weeks before the municipal elections and the PUP are trying to unseat a Mayor, thought in some circles to be popular and effective at City government. But clearly not in the PUP’s circles, as the Opposition led by candidate Yolanda Schakron leveled multiple charges at the credibility of the Pannell Kerr Forster report, including that previous reports done by Castillo Sanchez and Burrell showed an adverse opinion of the Council’s fiscal management in one instance, and in another, none at all.
Yolanda Schakron, herself a businesswoman, took exception to the Central Government’s “powdering” of Mayor Darrell Bradley’s administration, saying it puts the lie to City Hall’s claims of accountability and transparency.
“The thing that really gets to me and the team is when we walk Southside, Belize City. We see the conditions of the streets. We see the conditions of the drains.
There is a bad outbreak of Dengue. There’s some areas [where] almost everyone in a family has had Dengue.
Yet we must remember that Mayor Bradley says he wants to go in Caribbean Shores. So we have to ask ourselves the question is that why he started to fix all the streets in Caribbean Shores. Was it for his own personal agenda? That is very, very scarey to think that Mayor Bradley, who calls himself a Christian, and who says he’s for the people, has neglected the Southside of belize City.”
The review by the PUP questions the bidding process for street contracts, general accounting principles and payments for donations by the Council, noting that some costs such as sanitation are spread across the major departments rather being place in one line item – perhaps to hide inappropriate spending, the PUP charges.
But according to Yolanda Schakron, the audit’s numbers simply do not match the real conditions they see on the ground while campaigning ahead of the March municipals – and she wonders whether Mayor Bradley is laying the groundwork for a run in the Caribbean Shores division at the expense of the rest of the Old Capital, particularly its most vulnerable areas.
“If left to the skills of Darrell Bradley at raising and managing the Council’s own resources, we could see that the Council would have been bankrupt from 2012.
From the time Mayor Bradley got into office, the Central Government has been bailing out Mayor Darrell Bradley. Quite frankly, he is the only mayor in history that has the Council acting like a full government department rather than a body in charge of its own taxes and fees and management of the city.
So, why should we be paying taxes? Where are our taxes going to? This Council, the government fixes up everything for them.”
Chartered public accountant and former Mayor of Belize City, Jose A. Coye, was tabbed by the party to explain what they believe the audit means, but he pointed out that as chief executive the Mayor and his financial team are responsible for preparing the financial material according to international practice. He says the Council has not been able to reconcile their performance as outlined in the most recent audit with the incomplete ones of a few years before.
” In the report the auditor is saying that the audit for the 2012-2013 was not completed. That is where, I think, the citizens must make a demand on the Council. We want to see the 2012-2013 audit, because that will be then the continuity for the three years, and it will tell us more about the credibility of the 2013-2014.”
Jose Coye says he has questions about the sharp reduction in operating deficit at the Council which can only be satisfied by the completion of the 2012-13 audit.