Pay your fine or do time

Ninety days after the double election of March 7th, many of the elected officials still have not complied with the Prevention of Corruption Act, which requires that they file a disclosure of their assets with the Integrity Commission.

This requirement includes all city councilors, town councilors,  Senators, the Speaker of the House, and the Members of the House of Representatives.

Belizean businessman Robert Lopez, the former Chairman of the Vision Inspired by the People political party, raised this issue in a letter to the media on Thursday, June 7th.

When The Reporter checked with the Integrity Commission in Belmopan, a Miss Estellita Chan said that she had waited until she received a list of all the elected officials from the Elections and Boundaries Commission, before she had  sent out letters to each newly elected or re-elected official informing him or her that they were required by law to file a list of their financial assets with the Commission.

With the deadline approaching, a number of these public officials have written back requesting an extension of the time, saying that they had experienced some difficulties in getting such statements from their banks.

Miss Chan said she had to write to the banks in question, informing them of the law. Miss Chan declined to say who among the members of the National Assembly had complied with the law, and said she was not at liberty to disclose even a number of how many elected officials had complied and how many had not. However, she admitted that she had granted an extension to those who had requested it.

Lopez also congratulated Wally Nunez Jr., “the only PUP councillor in San Pedro Town Council who has submitted his disclosure within the allotted time.”

Lopez also quoted the Prevention of Corruption Act 2007, which states:

“In the case of a person who becomes a person in public life within three months of his becoming a person in public life, in respect of his (including spouse and children) assets, income and liabilities for the year ended on the previous 31st December. … A person who, without reasonable cause, fails to file with the Commission, a declaration which he is required to file in accordance with the provisions of this Act, commits a first offense and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not less than three thousand dollars ($3, 000.00.).

“On a second or subsequent offense to a fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) or to imprisonment for a period to one year or to both fine and imprisonment.”

Lopez also called on the Citizens Organized for Liberty and Action (COLA) to lead the charge in making sure our elected persons obey this law. If they don’t, then he urged that they take out a citizens’ class action suit and force them to pay their fine, serve their time or both.

Once found guilty then they can demand a recall election for each person who refuses to obey the law. Only the people can stop corruption, Lopez affirmed.

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