Wed | Apr 8, 2020

BELIZE | Opposition wants commission of inquiry into PetroCaribe funds

Published:Monday | February 17, 2020 | 12:10 AM

BELMOPAN (CMC):

The main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has called for a commission of inquiry after the High Court ruled earlier this month that more than BDZ$1.5 billion (J$105 billion) had been illegally spent with respect to the PetroCaribe funds.

PetroCaribe is an energy cooperation agreement, initiated by Venezuela, offering countries oil supplies based on a concessionary financial agreement.

In a four-page letter sent to Prime Minister Dean Barrow on Friday, opposition and PUP leader John Briceño noted that the chief justice found that Prime Minister Barrow, who is also the minister of finance, breached the Finance and Audit Reform of Act when he did not get the required parliamentary approval for spending the funds.

The court also ordered a constitutional amendment to correct the matter. The government would need the support of the opposition in amending the constitution, since a special majority is required to do so.

“You should be in no doubt that PUP will vigorously oppose any proposed amendment to validate your government’s illegality. Before any such bill should be tabled in the House of Representatives, we will insist that there be a commission of inquiry into scandal, and a forensic audit into this unconstitutional expenditure,” Briceño wrote in his letter.

He said that “there should be special emphasis to the unaccounted expenditure of the PetroCaribe Funds,” adding “nothing else will suffice”.

Earlier this month, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the government’s cavalier treatment of the fundamental principles of rule of law is completely unacceptable, as this encourages both individual and institutional corruption.