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Senate Inquiry highlights need for corruption reforms

Business community Senator Kevin Herrera said this week that the testimony of Portico developer David Gegg has highlighted the need for serious reforms within government services.

During his appearance before the Senate Special Select Committee on Tuesday, Gegg testified for a second time that he was approached by an unnamed member of the Department of the Environment for a seven-figure campaign contribution to get his environmental impact assessment approved.

Herrera told The Reporter that, though the allegation has not been proven, any such allegation against government officials is concerning and must be taken seriously. Herrera said that Gegg’s testimony underscores the need for campaign finance legislation, as well as a comprehensive restructuring of government services to increase efficiency.

For the former, Herrera says that campaign finance legislation would require parties to report the source of their campaign funding and limit the amount of contributions a single person or entity can make to a political party.

“The whole purpose of that is so that there is no link between campaign financing and what a person does once they get into office, or any kind of special favors based on campaign contributions,” Herrera said.

He went on to say that inefficiencies within the public service contribute significantly to corruption, as corrupt officials can leverage shortening lengthy processes for bribes. Herrera says such practices are present throughout the public service and that people should not be paying extra for services that public officers are required to provide.

“Getting rid of unnecessary bureaucracies, in my opinion, stems from other activities within the government system. I think that with a more transparent, more efficient system, people will have less of a need to pay for things they should not be paying for,” Herrera added.

Herrera also called for reforms to the issuing of government contracts, stressing the need for greater transparency. A 2020 survey from the World Bank shows that 41.8 percent of firms indicated that some form of consideration was necessary to secure a government contract. This is 30.5 percent higher than the regional average for Latin America and the Caribbean. Herrera says that such an issue cannot be resolved without sweeping and comprehensive reforms.

“Corruption thrives in darkness. The more you shine a light on it, the less likely it is to happen. If these contracts are made public, and we see why one company got it over the other, then fewer people will get involved in that type of activity,” Herrera said.

During his testimony, Gegg explained that big businesses receive "fiscal incentives" in the form of tax breaks to encourage them to do business in Belize. He noted he was approached more than once regarding making campaign contributions, but chose to wait out the 2010 general elections rather than make the requested payment.


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