SP PUP executive asks the Mayor to “live up” to his campaign promise

Monday, September 24th, 2012

During the Mayoral debates held leading up to the Municipal Elections in March of 2012, candidate Guerrero promised an independent audit of the previous administration (led by Elsa Paz, UDP).

The San Pedro Branch of the People’s United Party Executive has gone public and is calling on the Mayor of San Pedro Town Council (SPTC), Daniel Guerrero to “live up” to his campaign promise and commission an independent audit of the past three terms under which Mayor Elsa Paz governed. The public announcement was made via a press release issued by the SP PUP committee on Friday, September 14th which was reiterated by the only PUP elected town councilor, Wally Nuñez JR.

The release makes reference to the Mayor’s response during his July 26th report on the state of the council following the first 100 days at helm of the SPTC. The release says that the “meeting by the SPTC to present their report for their first hundred days of administration raises more questions than answers.” The release makes reference to Mayor Guerrero’s campaign promise to conduct an independent audit of the previous administration but backed off after he was elected. “The Mayor answered that he did not want to go on a witch hunt as to what and who was responsible for the perceived mismanagement. That, according to him, the past was the past and that he wanted to concentrate on the future.

Although we recognize that yes we should really worry about the future and make sure that appalling mistakes made by the past UDP administrations that has put San Pedro in a two and a half million dollar debt… should not be repeated,” detailed the release. In an exclusive interview with The Sun, the PUP elected councilor Wally Nunez strongly echoed the same points made in the release. “In their manifesto, they promised to come clean and be transparent and we want them to show the people of this island they are prepared to comply with their manifesto. The past administration (under Elsa Paz) did do an audit for the term of Mayor Beto Nuñez so I think it’s just fitting that we do one for former Mayor Elsa Pazs’ term in office too,” said councilor Nuñez. Responding to Mayor Guerrero’s approach of not wanting to “dwell in the past,” Nuñez said it is impossible to move forward without having knowledge of the past. “We cannot put a blind eye on the past and just move forward because we need to know what happened and how we got to this point. We need to know why the council has all these expenses left by the previous administration and we basically need to be transparent if that is what needs to be proved to the island,” rebutted Nuñez. But even with Nuñez taking a strong stance and joining the PUP in asking for the Mayor to ‘live up” to his campaign promise, Mayor Guerrero is unmoved. “I care less in what the PUP wants to say. They have been in government and have done all kinds of mess. The PUP wants to distract me and I have no time for their games… I am here to work and I mean we will work. We will do an audit for the time we are in office,” said Mayor Guerrero explaining that he promised an audit of his term in office and not of the past administrator saying that he will not concentrate efforts in witch-hunting. But the PUP maintains that the right thing to do is to come clear to the tax payers. “It is not a matter of a witch hunt but out of respect and accountability to the tax payer whose money it is that was mismanaged,” says the PUP.

The PUP, in its release, also questions the Mayor’s habit of borrowing. “We raise concern to the concept of a habit of borrowing and borrowing to run the affairs of the Town. At some point there has to be an end to this practice since in our view it is unsustainable. These loans will have to be paid at some point. According to the report, collection of taxes is good, therefore, where are our taxes going,” detailed the release. When asked if he has expressed concerned during the close door meetings of the Mayor with all councilors, Wally said that he has. “To a certain point yes. I have been a part of it but there are policies that they have agreed on prior and since I am the only PUP councilor there then my voice doesn’t really count when it comes to decision making,” said councilor Nuñez.

The PUP also questioned they Mayor’s action in which he is quoted as saying that he is “finding new ways to raise funds.” “Doesn’t this mean new taxes? Although the Prime Minister promised not to raise any new taxes, in his budget speech, we see that they are effectually raising taxes but at the municipal level,” pointed out the release. Councilor Nuñez also emphasized in his interview that “the municipality is in serious debt so they are trying to find different ways on how to raise money to pay off their debt. So this is a clear proof of financial instability. If you are going to be borrowing money to pay off loans and you continue to borrow then it makes no sense. We have to find a way to come up with a better financial sustainable plan.”

And while the PUP jabbed at the Mayor, Guerrero explained that with the improvements of recent that the Town is seeing, there is the need to find resources (money) to “pay for the improvements.” He said that the PM’s promise not to raise taxes was at a national level and explained that the new garbage collection tax and the increase in property tax is essential for the council to conduct the regular operation of the town. When asked to comment of councilor Nuñez’s point that the Mayor and five councilors refused to file their financial disclosure to the Integrity Commission of Belize, Mayor Guerrero said that his declaration is “sitting at his desk,” and has not filed it but will do so at his own timing.
The Mayor went on the record to say that if councilor Wally Nuñez insists in his questioning as the only councilor of the Opposition, “he runs the risk of losing his portfolio,” adding that Nuñez will not be allowed to be vocal against the council. This is the first time that Mayor Guerrero’s financial practice has come under public scrutiny since elected to office in March of 2012.

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