Last year member of the House of Representatives for Cayo South, Honorable Julius Espat, sued Prime Minister Dean Barrow in his capacity as Minister of Finance and Economic Development, for deciding to delay a bill authorizing the spending of funds, including monies gained through the PetroCaribe program.
Julius Espat, who also chairs the House’s Public Accounts Committee, says that the agreement entered into by Government in 2012 with ALBA PetroCaribe Belize Energy Limited is not enforceable as approval was not sought from the National Assembly, and without such approval any loans gained cannot be paid from the public purse.
Shortly after the suit was made, the Government passed a motion in a meeting of the House and subsequently the Senate authorizing such loans.
On Monday the lawsuit was back before Justice Courtney Abel and a trial date of June 2 and 3 has been agreed, with a final meeting in April to settle matters of submissions and other issues.
Attorney representing the Government Senior Counsel Denys Barrow gave the press an update after the in-chamber session this morning at the Supreme Court.
“The claimant has made the claim [that] the government, through the financial secretary, has filed an affidavit in response and ALBA, which is the private company that does the importing of the petroleum, has been given permission to file an affidavit, I think in about two weeks time, or something like that. So the case is not yet fully formulated but it is in the process.”
“What would ALBA be filing as, an interested party?”
“No, they are sued because the declaration which has been sought is against Dean Barrow as Minister of Finance, the Attorney General, as the representative of the Government, and ALBA as the company which has made the PetroCaribe funds available to the country of Belize. They are the ones who source the oil, etcetera.”
The November 17 motion authorized spending of over $230 million dating back to 2010, which paid for many projects including the starting of the National Bank, infrastructural improvements and building of sporting facilities under the Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL).
Prime Minister Barrow has said that the Government has been accountable for each PetroCaribe dollar it spends, approved by the Venezuelan Government, and that Belizeans do not care much about how the money is spent because the improvements can be seen.