If the Government of Belize is serious about fighting corruption they must:
International Anti-Corruption Day December 9
Become a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption
Participate in the Transparency International Corruption Index: Belize have not participated since 2008 (The same year UDP got into power).
Make active and restructure the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
Make active the Integrity Commission
With these 4 instruments in place our Government will show that it is serious about fighting corruption.
The UNCAC will give us an autonomous body that will assist us in rooting out corrupt officials and if necesary jail them, as recently happened in Guatemala.
Corruption takes many forms, but always involves the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Take a closer look.
This international institution has chapters in more than 100 countries, pressuring governments, businesses and the powerful to take strong action against corruption. They also support witnesses and victims of corruption.
Currently, in Belize witnesses of and those who try to educate the public about corruption are targeted and political victimized by the governmen. The rich and powerful also use their ties to government officials to attack competion, which damage the economic growth of our nation, and is one of the contribution factors as to why we continue to import more than we export, for a few importers are getting filthy rich, when a lot of the products we import can be made in Belize, especially food products.
Public Accounts Committee
Julius Espat - Chairman of PAC stated:"The role of the Public Accounts Committee is just to make sure that once the money has been allocated for a specific use, that we are there to make sure that it is spent efficiently and that it reaches its final destination.
Secondly, this Public Accounts Committee is not set up to be a witch-hunt to go after any Minister of Government. It is not the role of the Public Accounts Committee to go after any minister that has done wrong-doing. That is the Governments role, through a special select committee, if they want to go look at that type of auditing.
What the Public Accounts Committee should be doing is to make sure, for example, ten million dollars is allocated in the Ministry of Finance to build a school. The role is to make sure that during the process of that, that we are aware of the contract, that the contract goes to bidding, and we have no control who gets it and that’s not our role. Once the contract is given, we want to know first advance payment is given, how much work will be done? Second advance payment is given, how much work is done? At the end of the day, we want to make sure that that ten million dollars, based on the contract, is properly done."
Conrad Lewis – Former Clerk of the National Assembly:
"We have a political culture where short term political expediency succeeds the national good. Because of that the Public Accounts Committee is moribund and impotent."
Two members of the opposition make up the Public Accounts Committee while the remaining four seats are filled by the ruling party. According to Conrad Lewis, the structure of Belize’s Public Accounts Committee is different from those around the world; which makes it impotent.
Robert Lopez | Campaign Manager | BPP: “This is the body that is supposed to keep our elected leaders in office from getting unlawfully rich. We see what’s taking place: under the PUP, we were looking at millions…I mean, it was blatant; the millions that were written out in one day in a $30M- $40M check to persons, we know what happened. Now, we see what is happening with Castro and Penner…stealing is stealing. It does not matter if it’s $1, 5,000 or $30,000,000. What we are saying now is, Prime Minister, we know you are distraught; we have accepted that and perhaps you need to turn to the people who voted for those who are in office. I believe the Amandala said, “5 persons disclosed last year”? That is unacceptable! This is the law and if you ask them why haven’t you done it, have the PUP stand it there, and they say, “well there is no integrity Commission”, “the forms are too long and complicated”, that is no excuse”.
What We Need To Understand
Belize is a developing nation with needs to develop. We need to create quality jobs for our people, especialy our young people who have just come out of high school and tertiary institutions.
We need more investment, but people won’t come into our country and invest when it’s plagued with corruption.
The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is a multilateral convention negotiated by members of the United Nations. It is the first global legally binding international anti-corruption instrument.
Transparency International gives voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption. We work together with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.
Public Accounts Committee
The Public Accounts Committee has the duty of examining, considering and reporting on the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by the National Assembly to meet the public expenditure of the country; such other accounts as may be referred to the Committee by the House or under any Law; and the report of the Auditor General on any such accounts.
Function: The Commission shall - (1) Receive, examine and retain all declarations filed with it under this Act; (2) Make such inquiries as it considers necessary in order to verify or determine the accuracy of the declarations filed under this Act; (3) Receive and investigate complaints regarding non-compliance with or breach of the provisions of this Act; (4) Perform such other functions as it is required by this Act to perform. In the exercise of its functions under this Act, the Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF CORRUPTION?
Corruption impacts societies in a multitude of ways. In the worst cases, it costs lives. Short of this, it costs people their freedom, health or money.
The cost of corruption can be divided into four main categories: political, economic, social and environmental.
On the political front, corruption is a major obstacle to democracy and the rule of law. In a democratic system, offices and institutions lose their legitimacy when they’re misused for private advantage. This is harmful in established democracies, but even more so in newly emerging ones. It is extremely challenging to develop accountable political leadership in a corrupt climate.
Economically, corruption depletes national wealth. Corrupt politicians invest scarce public resources in projects that will line their pockets rather than benefit communities, and prioritise high-profile projects such as dams, power plants, pipelines and refineries over less spectacular but more urgent infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals and roads. Corruption also hinders the development of fair market structures and distorts competition, which in turn deters investment.
Corruption corrodes the social fabric of society. It undermines people's trust in the political system, in its institutions and its leadership. A distrustful or apathetic public can then become yet another hurdle to challenging corruption.
Environmental degradation is another consequence of corrupt systems. The lack of, or non-enforcement of, environmental regulations and legislation means that precious natural resources are carelessly exploited, and entire ecological systems are ravaged. From mining, to logging, to carbon offsets, companies across the globe continue to pay bribes in return for unrestricted destruction.