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Accountability first! Senator Lizarraga: National Bank should account for money before getting more

By Alexis R. Milan
Staff Reporter

Senator representing the private sector, Mark Lizarraga, said the government’s request for an additional $10 million for the National Bank of Belize should not be approved until the bank can show how it has been using its money.

Lizarraga, during Thursday’s Senate meeting, said there should have been some breakdown of the bank’s performance along with this latest request for additional capital.

Lizarraga noted that $10 million in public money is no small matter but the Senate has been asked once again to approve such a large investment of the people’s money without documentation of how the first $20 million has been used.

“This sort of request in the private sector would never be entertained nor should it be, without some sort of accompanying proof of ongoing performance, justifying the need for such a substantial increase in need for cash,” Lizarraga said.

He added that he was dismayed by the fact that in the end the government’s Senators would have the final say, and make no request for any explanation as to how the money is being utilized.

Lizarraga also questioned a government motion for a $20 million loan as part of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Education Quality Improvement Program. “How can we be asked to approve a $20 million loan with no idea whatsoever of how the people’s money will be invested?” Lizarraga queried.

Lizarraga said he was certain that a proposal document had to be prepared to apply for such a loan, and said that document should have been submitted to the Senate for review.

“Nowhere in the world would a body such as ours approve a loan on the strength of two paragraphs of less than 70 words of explanation. This works out to $285,714.28 per word. Where in the world could you get approval to borrow $20 million with so little or no explanation?” Lizarraga asked.

Lizarraga was also critical of a government motion to convert a $12 million loan to Belize Water Services (BWS) into a grant. As with the other motions, Lizarraga noted that there has been no documentation of BWS’ use of the money.

He said to date we have seen the commitment of taxpayer’s money to the sum of $42 million with less than three pages of notes or bullet points.

“This type of rubber stamp procedure has no place, and certainly reeks of poor taste in what is considered to be accountable governance,” Lizarraga declared.

Lizarraga also reminded the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Godwin Hulse, of his promise to provide adequate documentation along with such requests to disburse tax dollars. Lizarraga said it was time for the Auditor General to audit all state-owned assets to ensure that Belizeans know how and where their tax dollars being spent.

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