By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
Belize is scheduled to receive its second visit from the Organization of American States (OAS) Mechanism for Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC) later this year
According to the OAS, Belize has provided its written consent accepting the visit, which is part of the Mechanism’s Fifth Round of Review of the OAS Convention Against Corruption (CAC).
The consent was formally provided by Belize’s permanent mission to the OAS, Iran Tillet-Dominguez, who also serves as Vice Chair to the MESICIC Committee of Experts.
Following the on-site visit to Belize MESICIC will publish a report based on their visit during the 25th meeting of the Committee of Experts.
MESICIC makes periodic visits to countries that have signed on to the CAC and Belize received its first visit from the Mechanism last April.
During the visit, representatives from MESICIC met with members from civil society including the Chamber of Commerce as well as the Auditor General and other oversight agencies tasked with anti-corruption responsibilities.
MESICIC reviewed the information on their visit and made several recommendations to the government of Belize to enhance anti-corruption measures in the country. Attorney General Wilfred Elrington, whose office oversees MESICIC relations, said the government would consider the recommendations and make appropriate changes.
In that report MESICIC recommended that the government provide more resources and independence for the Office of the Auditor General, restructure the Public Accounts Committee and appoint an Integrity Commission because failure to do so would undermine anti-corruption efforts.
The report went on to say that the absence of a functional Integrity Commission means that no aspect of the financial declaration system can operate, such as the review of declarations that are filed, making use of declarations to detect conflicts of interest, or the application of penalties with respect to those public servants required by law to file financial declarations and who fail to do so, among others.
Belize still hasn’t appointed an Integrity Commission despite the Prime Minister’s 2014 New Year’s promise of “remedying omissions such as the failure to appoint the Integrity Commission.” Barrow had also promised to reconstitute the PAC.
Although former Financial Intelligence Unit director Marilyn Williams was named as the new chairperson for the Integrity Commission in January 2014, the appointment of the Commission has been stalled ever since two of the UDP’s nominations declined to be a part on the basis that they would be considered Politically Exposed Persons and required to rigorously disclose personal financial information.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has since declared publicly that he is having difficulties finding replacements for the Integrity Commission and that “I have been too busy really to have conducted any search for replacements of the Integrity Commission.”
To date thirty-one member nations of the OAS have signed and ratified the IACAC, introduced and adopted by the OAS in 1996. The convention aims at eradicating the prevalent instances of corruption in the American States, including Belize.
Belize ratified the IACAC on August 2nd 2002 and submitted its instrument of ratification, The Belize Prevention of Corruption Act, 2007 to the OAS on September 6th, 2002. In addition Belize signed the Declaration on the Mechanism for Follow-up, which allows the MESCIC to conduct on-site examinations of the mechanisms in place to fight corruption.