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UDP Chairman challenges GOB’s contract to SMART

Former Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte wants the Supreme Court to squash a $3.37 million contract the Briceño Administration awarded to Speednet Communications (SMART).

Peyrefitte filed an application for judicial review, seeking permission to legally challenge the multi-million dollars software licensing contract the PUP Government awarded to SMART, a company owned by family members of Prime Minister John Briceño who is also the Minister of Finance.

Briceño has conceded the Government broke the law when the contract was awarded to SMART before it was sent to the Office of the Contractor General. The Finance and Audit (Reform) Act, FARA, explicitly states that the Government shall submit the contract to the Contractor General “for review and comments before the contract is executed.” The government failed to do so.

On Friday, Briceño told reporters that “if it goes to court, it will go nowhere simply because the Contractor General, after the fact, took a look at everything that took place and he has given a stamp of approval, saying that everything was done openly and transparently.” Briceño, who denied any knowledge of the transaction, is being accused of diverting monies from Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), the country’s largest telecommunications company which is partly owned by the Government, to SMART.

Briceño explained that this was the first time that the Microsoft 365 software licensing contract was put to tender. He accused the previous Administration of simply awarding the contract to BTL which, according to the PM, was fleecing the government. Briceño said, “Speednet gave the cheapest rate and that government is saving Belizeans money. When reporters pressed him on the matter, Briceño responded that the media was “creating a mountain out of a molehill.”

Justice Sonya Young is expected to rule on the claim on Friday, February 18th. When asked if he is expecting criminally charges to follow, Peyrefitte told reporters, “That’s up to the Director of Public Prosecution and that’s up to the Police Department.”

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