By Alexis R. Milan
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman, Julius Espat has urged the Auditor General to use her authority to look into the government’s recent PETROCARIBE loan motion and he warned that to not do so would be a “complete abdication of responsibility.”
Auditor General, Dorothy Bradley told The Reporter on Thursday that since the funds in question originate from 2012, she would only be able to audit the matter when she receives financial records for that period from the Accountant General.
Bradley explained that her office, once in possession of those financial records, would conduct a comprehensive audit not just particularly as it relates to PETROCARIBE funds, but all government spending.
Espat wrote to Auditor General, Dorothy Bradley in a letter dated October 21, reiterating his concerns about the motion and dismissing Bradley’s initial response that any inquiry by her office into the matter would be premature. Espat said that given the fact that there has already been significant expenditure over the past few years, any such consideration would in fact be late.
Espat said it would be irresponsible of Bradley’s office as well as his own to sit and watch over $200 million in public funds expended in an unlawful manner without the requisite level of transparency and accountability.
Auditor General Dorothy Bradley had indicated to Espat last Friday that her office would not be able to perform the audit he requested of the government’s recent ALBA PETROCARIBE Belize Energy Ltd (APBEL) loan motion.
Bradley, in her letter, indicated that due to resource constraints, her office would not be able to facilitate the audit request. Bradley also indicated that it would be premature for her office to raise any concerns about the integrity of the loan motion.
Espat had written to the Auditor General two weeks earlier, citing numerous concerns that the opposition had about the nature of the government’s loan motion and requesting that Bradley “ascertain the basis of the authority for the expenditures of the APBEL loan funds by the government.”
Espat said that there were numerous breaches of the constitution, including a provision where the government cannot borrow money from a company such as APBEL. Espat also cited numerous concerns where the government may have not followed provisions set out in the Finance and Audit Reform Act 2005.
Espat said that the loan motion is another instance of the Executive branch of government overstepping their boundaries. Espat said that transparency and oversight is necessary when the government is dealing with such a large amount of money. Espat also charged that the response from the Auditor General is proof that there is no oversight in Belize.