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#435962 - 04/17/12 01:48 PM Orange Walk Mayor Speaks on Financial Anomalies
Marty Offline

Orange Walk Mayor Speaks on Financial Anomalies Found At The Orange Walk Town Hall

Immediately after taking office on March 7TH the Mayor of Orange Walk Town Kevin Bernard ordered that a special audit on the council’s finances be conducted. As we aired on March 21st the findings of the special audit were jaw dropping as major anomalies including unpaid Social Security contributions for employees, a lucrative contract between the former council and Denny Grijalva and a possible embezzlement by one of the council’s former employees was exposed.

Today during his first press conference as Mayor of Orange Walk, Bernard, accompanied by Councilor’s Josue Carballo and Ian Cal at the head table, officially informed the media about the findings on the special audit. The Mayor started off the press conference by discussing the council’s finances but don’t get your hopes up because it is not good news. From what we were able to gather the former U.D.P Town Council headed by Philip De La Fuente basically devoured the council’s coffers like a pack of wolves.

Screen_shot_2012-04-16_at_8.15.20_PMKevin Bernard, Mayor Orange Walk Town

“In the case of the financial review I won’t waste any time doing  what so many politicians have done which is spend the whole term blaming the past administration for everything and using that as an excuse for not being able to get anything done. At the end of March ninth, after paying out payroll and other expenses, we had a bank balance of ninety-eight thousand, forty-five dollars and ninety-three cents in the transport account. In addition to that, we found an overdraft facility which was not being serviced by the previous administration. That means that the council was a little over one hundred and ten thousand dollars in their debt and it stood at a hundred and eleven thousand, two hundred and seventy-nine dollars when we took over. As if that was not bad enough, we also found a letter from the Ministry of Finance, informing the previous council that the facility could have only been operated up to April first, 2012; this financial year, then it would have been discontinued. The ministry had instructed that the council pay off the overdraft of one hundred and ten thousand before April first 2012. That was not done and it has left us in somewhat a bad condition. What is surprising and what is more damning is that if the bank had taken their decision, they had the right to take out whatever monies we had in the transport account and pay off the overdraft which would have left us in a worst situation. Also, when we got into Town Hall we found an assessment from the Social Security Board dated August 2011. The Social Security Board claims that the Orange Walk Town Council owed them the sum of thirty-one thousand plus dollars. When we investigated further, we realized that the previous administration had collected employee contributions from all employees at the council but had neglected to pay them into the Social Security Board. In addition, in November of 2011, about a hundred persons were hired for a work program and nothing was paid into S.S.B. from either of the months that they worked. So far, we found that the Orange Walk Town Council in 2011 neglected to forward either employee or employer contributions to the S.S.B.  We’ve calculated that this will cost us a little over fifty thousand dollars. What we’ve also found so far is that the previous administration neglected to pay income tax for the entire year of 2011 and for two months in 2012, including January and February of 2012. We’ve estimated that this will cost the council another sixteen thousand dollars. We’re currently establishing contact with the ministry of finance to explore how this situation can be resolved in a manner that does not affect the services we are obligated to perform."

During the special investigation at least one former employee of the council was signaled for wrongdoing or engaging in irregular practices. The last time CTV3 interviewed Mayor Bernard he revealed that Carl Westby, the council’s former revenue collector, is being investigated for the misappropriation of more than $16,000. Today; however, Mayor Bernard dropped a bomb when he reveled that, that amount has increased to more than $20,000. But hold on because there is more. According to the Mayor, Westby is not the only former employee that is being investigated. The council’s former Assistant Administrator Benjamin Carrillo is also under scrutiny for the unauthorized signing of Trade Licenses.

Kevin Bernard, Mayor Orange Walk Town

“As it relates to the issue of Mr. Carl Westby as you all are aware taking office I was given a letter by the former administrator on some alleged misappropriation of funds occurred of Mr. Carl Westby at this point in time we are continuously getting the evidence and on the date when I receive that letter the file had a total of $16,802.76 and as of today based on further evidence that we are getting that amount is already surpassing $21,000.00.”

Josue Carballo, Councilor

“That has been one of our challenges right now in terms of reconciling and really getting to know the true picture of the financial status of the council because right now in my book it shows that X person, John probably owes two hundred or three hundred dollars in property tax but in reality that person might have already paid but because of all these irregularities those payments were no registered.” We are going to be putting our efforts in reconciling these and we are going to have all our residence get their statements and that is very important for them to get a printed statement of really their status in terms of property tax, trade license and so forth so that if any one has any discrepancies, I mean it is unfair for a residence to have paid and in reality that was not registered in the system and they are still showing that they are owing, so that is one of the things that we want to take up in the near future for everyone get their statements and if they have any questions, or any query on that they can definitely feel free to come and  I am opening the invitation to all residence so if you have a free time come up to our offices and we shall let you know what your status is.”

Kevin Bernard, Mayor Orange Walk Town

“Mr. Benjamin Carrillo also have some issues that we are investigating at this point in time but for now we haven’t ascertain all the exact details because we are still getting evidence but as soon as that comes out I will definitely be making it public to the media.”

As for the 15 contracts that were signed with most of the Administration staff and Transport staff by De La Fuente, Mayor Bernard stated that it is an issue that is still under investigation.

Kevin Bernard, Mayor Orange Walk Town

“As it relates to the employee contracts that we encountered here the fifteen so employees we are still seeking final and legal advice from our lawyers and attorney, they are reviewing the cases thoroughly and we are getting their legal opinions to us and from there we will be looking into the options that we may have, but I just want to mention that the internal audit that is taking place will be taking place from an independent stand point as well, we are going to be looking into those issues as long as irregularities may have had collusion within some member of the council and until that finding is made to us we will be able to come out and tell you exactly what actions we will be taking and the people will know every step of the way.”

The council has hired an internal auditor who will ensure that every measure is set in place to safe guard the towns finances.

Kevin Bernard, Mayor Orange Walk Town

“Controls have already been put in place and persons put in positions of responsibility that would adhere to these controls, we have also as a council enlisted the services of an independent Auditing firm which should be starting work in two weeks time, they would do a comprehensive audit of the financial year 2011/2012 so that we can have an accurate starting point, I can commit to you now that an independent audit will be done at the end of each financial term and those finding will be made available to you, we are serious about the responsibility entrusted to us and we will keep our commitment to you.”

CTV3


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#435963 - 04/17/12 01:50 PM Re: Orange Walk Mayor Speaks on Financial Anomalies [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

ORANGE WALK TOWN COUNCIL REVEALS ITS FINANCIAL STATUS

The Orange Walk Town Council held a press conference today at the Town Hall to reveal the administrations financial standing after having conducted some investigations since taking office in early March.

Dalila Ical reporting…

Kevin Bernard - Mayor, Orange Walk Town

“What the Council encountered was an overdraft facility that was not being serviced; it stood at the time at $111,279.00.  There is two accounts that the Council operates, there was a transport account that by the end of March 9 after paying out payroll and other expenses that were incurred immediately coming in that bank balance stood at $98,045.36.”

An assessment dated August 2011 shows that the council owes the Social Security board over thirty thousand dollars in fees.

Kevin Bernard - Mayor, Orange Walk Town

“Further investigation also led to not e that the council in November 2011 had about 100 employees on a work program that was working between November and March, just before the election and neither were their contributions for Social Security paid in to the Social Security office.  We have estimated that figure to be a little bit over $50,000.00.  What I want to say is that this council is proactive and we are already committing ourselves, we have already started making our contributions.”

Mayor Bernardo says they are now making payments of up to two thousand dollars to clear the arrears at the SSB, but the new town administration also needs to clear a bill at the Income Tax Department.

Kevin Bernard - Mayor, Orange Walk Town

“The previous administration neglected to pay income tax for the entire year of 2011 and for two months in 2010 and for January and February 2012 and that should be costing this council a little over $16,000.00 that is being mild because that could have incurred interest and all of these things.  We are getting in contact with the Income Tax Department to see how we can address that.”

Bernard adds that the council also has a bill of $88,000 to a contractor who was hired by the previous administration.

Kevin Bernard - Mayor, Orange Walk Town

“That contract was signed in February 2012 for a total of $88,000.00 plus where he made a commitment to pay Mr. Grijalva $10,000.00 a month and a final payment of $8,000.00 plus.  The Council is looking into that because as you are aware the position of the Council is very bleak.”

In addition to having inherited a debt of well over two hundred thousand dollars, the Mayor says they are conducting an additional investigation into an alleged embezzlement at the council.

Kevin Bernard - Mayor, Orange Walk Town

“The issue of the Carl Westby case earlier that has now accounted to $21,000.00 and there is more evidence coming in.  We are going to speed up that process in terms of the investigation and we are going to speed up the process in terms of the investigation and we will have to take the legal and necessary action against whoever was involved in that case, the alleged embezzlement of funds that was quoted by the former administrator Mr. Moguel on a letter dated 8th March that was sent to me.”

The Orange Walk Mayor also spoke of discrepancies that appeared in an internal audit done for the period 2004/2005 to 2009/2010.

Kevin Bernard - Mayor, Orange Walk Town

“There were many discrepancies, internal controls were either ignored or never used at all, it was a mess, it was a complete mess.  The misappropriation of funds and the mismanagement of monies continued because right now we are doing a lot of internal audit and we are seeing a lot of discrepancies still continued leading up to the March 7 election and we are currently conducting an investigation and we have hired the services of an independent audit which should be commencing in two weeks time.”

However, Mayor Bernard says they are taking steps to ensure they meet operational expenses. The council has also requested assistance from the Ministry of Finance. Despite their financial predicament, however, Deputy Mayor Josue Carballo says they have successfully completed several infrastructural improvements in Orange Walk Town. During this morning’s conference, the new administration also launched its website, owtc.bz. Councilor Ian Cal, whose portfolio includes Information Technology, says through the website they aim at showing the public full transparency in their operations.

LOVEFM


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#435967 - 04/17/12 01:55 PM Re: Orange Walk Mayor Speaks on Financial Anomalies [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Huge overdraft facility left unpaid by previous Orange Walk Town Council

Kevin Bernard

The Orange Walk Town Mayor, Kevin Bernard, came under fire soon after he assumed office for reports of dismissals at the Town Hall. But this morning, Bernard called a press conference to expose irregularities under the previous Town Council. Earlier this month, Bernard revealed that fifteen employees were hastily granted three year contracts shortly before the March seventh elections. Today, the mayor gave some insight on the financial situation they inherited at the council.

 

Kevin Bernard, Orange Walk Mayor

“At the end of March ninth, after paying out payroll and other expenses, we had a bank balance of ninety-eight thousand, forty-five dollars and ninety-three cents in the transport account. In addition to that, we found an overdraft facility which was not being serviced by the previous administration. That means that the council was a little over one hundred and ten thousand dollars in their debt and it stood at a hundred and eleven thousand, two hundred and seventy-nine dollars when we took over. As if that was not bad enough, we also found a letter from the Ministry of Finance, informing the previous council that the facility could have only been operated up to April first, 2012; this financial year, then it would have been discontinued. The ministry had instructed that the council pay off the overdraft of one hundred and ten thousand before April first 2012. That was not done and it has left us in somewhat a bad condition. What is surprising and what is more damning is that if the bank had taken their decision, they had the right to take out whatever monies we had in the transport account and pay off the overdraft which would have left us in a worst situation. We are currently opening discussions with the Ministry of Finance to see how, if at all, they can assist us with the overdraft situation and with other matters we have inherited.”

Channel 5


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#435968 - 04/17/12 01:55 PM Re: Orange Walk Mayor Speaks on Financial Anomalies [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Social Security/Income Tax deducted but not paid for OW Town Hall employees in 2011

Aside from the heavy overdraft incurred by the previous administration, the mayor also disclosed that the mandatory Social Security contributions and Income Tax deductions were deducted from employees’ salaries but never paid in. According to Bernard, he has also discovered that the former mayor signed off an eighty-eight thousand dollar contract with the defeated Orange Walk Central candidate within days of the March seventh elections.

 

Kevin Bernard, Orange Walk Mayor

“Also, when we got into Town Hall we found an assessment from the Social Security Board dated August 2011. The Social Security Board claims that the Orange Walk Town Council owed them the sum of thirty-one thousand plus dollars. When we investigated further, we realized that the previous administration had collected employee contributions from all employees at the council but had neglected to pay them into the Social Security Board. In addition, in November of 2011, about a hundred persons were hired for a work program and nothing was paid into S.S.B. from either of the months that they worked. So far, we found that the Orange Walk Town Council in 2011 neglected to forward either employee or employer contributions to the S.S.B. We’ve calculated that this will cost us a little over fifty thousand dollars. What we’ve also found so far is that the previous administration neglected to pay income tax for the entire year of 2011 and for two months in 2012, including January and February of 2012. We’ve estimated that this will cost the council another sixteen thousand dollars. We’re currently establishing contact with the ministry of finance to explore how this situation can be resolved in a manner that does not affect the services we are obligated to perform. This contract to Denny Grijalva; what the then Mayor De La Fuente did just a couple weeks before elections was to sign this contract with Mr. Grijalva effectively indebting us to him. We now have to find eighty-eight thousand dollars from an already cash strapped council to pay Mr. Grijalva. So that is where we are today in terms of the official financial position of the council.”

 

According to the Mayor, a preliminary internal audit has been completed and found a number of irregularities in the operations of the previous council. Bernard says that a full time internal auditor will be hired and an independent audit will also be done for 2011-2012. Bernard also says that independent audits will be done at the end of each year in his council’s term in office. The Orange Walk Town Council also launched its new website, owtc.bz, which will provide updates and an avenue of communication for residents.

Channel 5


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