Councillor Severo Guerrero and Minister Manuel Heredia Jr. among those who have not filed assets to Integrity Commission
Wednesday, November 21st, 2018
At the end of August 2018, the Integrity Commission published a notice in the Government Gazette naming persons in public offices who have yet to declare their financials for 2018 as requested by law. That list included 42 public officials from the National Assembly and City and Town Councils that have violated the law. Among those named are Councillor Severo Guerrero from The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) and Area Representative for Belize Rural South and Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr. Based on the set regulations, the mentioned officials have until the end of the year after being elected to submit their declarations, with a possible extension up to March of the following year. In a phone interview with The San Pedro Sun, on Tuesday, November 13th, the Integrity Commission briefly mentioned that once a public servant fails to submit their assets on time, they are penalized with a $100 per day fine. According to the Commission, the longer they take to file their assets and liabilities, the more they must pay. The government agency will eventually prepare a report for the Director of Public Prosecution, who will then advise on what to do with a non-compliant public servant.
According to section 14 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act, the law states: “Where a person in public life fails to file a declaration under section 10 without reasonable cause or fails to furnish particulars under section 13, the Commission shall publish the fact in the Gazette and shall send a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions for further action.” The commission also has the right to investigate matters pertaining to corruption and is required to make scheduled reports to the Prime Minister.
The San Pedro Sun spoke to Heredia, who stated that he was aware of the situation and that he is in the process of submitting his declaration to the Integrity Commission. He told The Sun that he declares his assets as mandated every year, and has nothing to hide, but this time due to his busy schedule, his submission has been delayed.
Up to press time, Guerrero has been unavailable for comments on the matter. He was re-elected as Councillor of the SPTC during the March 7th Municipal Elections for the period 2018-2021. Guerrero is reportedly the only member of the Town Board that has not filed his assets, while the rest of his colleagues have.
The Commission went dormant in 2009, and was only reactivated in January 2017, after Government was pressured to enact it via demands for good governance and fighting against corruption. As a result, seven members were appointed at the National Assembly Building in Belmopan City, and they are Chairperson, Attorney Marilyn Williams, along with members Armead Gabourel, Wilmot Simmons, Lisbeth Delgado, Melissa Balderamos Mahler, Claudet Grinage and Nestor Vasquez. A year later on July 5, 2018, attorney Deshawn Arzu-Torres was appointed to head the Commission, after Williams left the post to take up a position as a Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Integrity Commission serves on a two-year period, and a new committee is expected to be selected in 2019.
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