[Linked Image] On Thursday, February 24th, the Chairman of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR), Ian Pou, provided details of the organization's current state, its finances, and how it has been recovering from the alleged mismanagement by the previous administration. The report also touched on the conditions HCMR's equipment (vehicles and vessels) were left in and the questionable activities of certain staff members. According to Pou, they have parted ways with some of the staff reportedly involved in illegal activities. He said that the team currently working with him is hardworking and has contributed immensely to the institution's ongoing recovery. His report indicates that upon assuming office as Chairman in January 2021, he encountered an alarming financial status and claims HCMR was flat broke.

"We were left with a deficit of an overdraft accumulating of $150,000. Tens of thousands owed to Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Telemedia Limited, and over $200,000 was owed to suppliers, which of many were ready to take court action," said Pou. He added that over $90,000 was owed to HCMR in accounts receivables. There was also an alarming number of payables inherited by the new administration. Besides what they owed to Social Security, employees were placed on a 50% salary reduction and often not paid for more than three months at a time. According to Pou's report, employees were still required to fulfill their duties and the pause in salary, reportedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, led to a total of $192,564.98 owed to the staff. To avoid the collapse of the administration looking after Belize's top marine reserve, the HCMR team said they negotiated and worked with many stakeholders on the island. This partnership allowed them to get back on track, and Pou proudly noted that their accounting department had reduced the funds owed to the organization by 78.5%. "I can proudly say that our accounting department has ensured that accounts are being paid in a timely manner, reducing accounts payable," said Pou. Additionally, Pou stated that while operating under the pressure of the pandemic, they could pay what was owed to their hardworking staff in a short time.

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