Senate Committee releases SSB report

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 28            July 13, 2006

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A Senate Special Select Committee issued their findings last week regarding the Social Security Board mishandling of millions of dollars in assets. The historic investigation was the first of its kind conducted by members of the Belize Senate.

   The committee was established in September of 2004 with the charge of investigating the Social Security Board’s illustrious mortgage securitization program. As of press time, the 124 page report has not been released to the public. Protocol dictates that it not be made public before it reaches the Prime Minister’s desk, which as of press time hadn’t since Honorable Said Musa has been out of the country. The findings were explained by Committee members to the rest of the Senate on July 4th.

   The Committee has passed their finding on to Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Kirk Anderson for investigation, who will determine if any criminal charges should be brought against any of the persons involved in signing warranties for the North American Securitization program. The Committee is also asking the DPP to determine whether any charges should be brought regarding the creation of in-house insurance certificates issued in the name of St. Paul Building Society for the St. James mortgages.

   In addition, the committee recommended that the remaining three members who were part of the original board of directors that approved a set of loan transactions for Glenn Godfrey’s group of companies be fired.

   Millions of dollars remain unaccounted for as a result of conspicuous loans by the Social Security Board. The loans were allegedly issued with under-valued collateral and includes four loans which were included in pools of mortgages to be securitized on the Caribbean and US markets, however other aspects of alleged negligence include, as previously mentioned the signing of warranties for the North American Securitization program which according to the committee was a misrepresentation of the facts and also the creation of in-house insurance certificates issued in the name of St. Paul Building Society for the St. James mortgages.

   The committee did not name specific people who should be held responsible for putting tens of millions of Social Security funds at risk by approving four loans to be securitized on the Caribbean and US markets. Senator Godwin Hulse chaired the committee. He cited some of the loans referenced in the report, “The amount that we guaranteed to pay on the international market was twenty-eight million dollars and that is what they are looking for in the North American. Not less. What collateral are we holding? Cayes that the Ministry of Natural Resources says is valued three hundred to three hundred thousand and fifty thousand Belize dollars. And what other collateral are we holding? We have two pieces of land in Cayo […] that piece of land was purchased five days before it was mortgaged and it was purchased for fifty thousand Belize dollars. And so I am hard pressed to get, three hundred and fifty thousand plus fifty thousand, that’s four hundred thousand to cover an outstanding twenty million. There may be other assets to sell around the place, when we put everything together. And yes maybe it could be covered. That is why we were very guarded in our report in saying it may not necessarily come from tax payer’s money […] money they could have used for other development.”

   Senator Richard Bradley who represented the Government Business on the Select Committed told the Senate, “It could have been prevented. Had the checks been made. Had someone driven from Belmopan to San Ignacio right alongside a tower that stands as a monument to the negligence, it could have been prevented. And what this recommendation does is say to the Prime Minister of the country, who at this particular conjuncture is responsible for Social Security Board that this is the considered findings of the committee that you appointed in September of 2004. Let it not be, oh they just said this, for this is a serious recommendation that all those involved must leave. It is a very serious matter. It continues on page one hundred and twenty-one that the Senate Committee is of the view that the information contained in the report in respect to the documents covering: Data-Pro, Aquarius, Western Caribbean, International Telecoms and the two other mortgages which were signed and contained representations and warranties and other statements that is or may be misleading, false or deceptive, that these things could amount to offences under the criminal code of this country.”

News reports from the Amandala and Channel 5 News contributed to this story.
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