7 News Belize

Does The Special Select Have Teeth?
posted (December 6, 2017)
At this time, we don't have exact figure that the Government spent to cover the costs of the hearings, but the last time the Prime Minister addressed it was back in August. Back then, by the Finance Ministry's count, the Senate Committee was forecasted to have spent just over $300,000, by the end of November.

So, it has been a costly exercise, but have the hearings been a good use of public funds? Well, that depends on your definition of value for money. But, it is still uncertain if the hearings will result in measurable outcomes, apart from the implementation of the changes to make sure that fleecing of that department is harder to do.

Today, the press asked the protem chairman if part of his contribution to the report will be recommendations for a police investigation into the illegalities that the Auditor General found. Here's how he answered that:

Daniel Ortiz - Reporter
"Do you see a need for a police investigation to commence immediately, a criminal investigation into some of the findings of the auditor general?"

Mark Lizarraga - Senator for the Business Sector
"I think that is clear. I've said that in the committee hearings, I think we've heard the Auditor General agree, I think we've heard directors and we've heard other members, other persons coming before the committee say that they are at a loss as to why the police has not commenced and continued its investigation into the illegalities that have taken place. The commissioner of police himself came to us and admitted that he didn't know about certain things or he did not have an interest or he kept unattached to what was happening. So, we asked him about certain things that we still awaiting a response for. We've sent him two letters, as a matter of fact, requesting the information that he promised when he was here. We have not gotten it, it concerns us and I think it is going to feature in the report, certainly from my standpoint, as to why we have not seen more action from the police."

"One of the things that you've pressed a lot on with a lot of the witnesses is, who pushes to get this done? The police are not doing it so who pushes it?"

Mark Lizarraga
"Well, I think I've tried to lead and to ask that question quite often inside. Where does the buck stop? If you look at the recommendations of the Auditor General, he speaks constantly to the Director of Immigration. I think we've heard from Miss Marin a few days ago and she spoke and I asked her again. She spoke specifically to the lack of a will, so to speak, from the Ministry itself; these are the people ultimately responsible. We hear from Director Locke as to the lack of resources, that these special projects would require additional resources and manpower, which she doesn't have and obviously financial resources. We will have to wait and see what the majority of the members say but I certainly believe at this point that it is speaking of a deficiency at the ministry level to properly address these things. We've heard people say in testimony that 'they knew, from the very top to the very bottom,' they knew what was happening. You've heard that testimony too. So, we need to see now where the will is to fix it."

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