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November 22
10:59 2018
THE REPORTER: News Staff, - Nov. 23rd. 2018 

A week ago the Reporter newspaper received a copy of a document which showed that Minister of the Environment, Dr. Omar Figueroa had requested monies from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which falls under his portfolio, to pay for backpacks and school supplies from a private business to distribute in his constituency, and in Corozal North, a constituency under his colleague Minister Hugo Patt.

The voucher, made out to the North American International Company Limited, is for $2500, and the description reads – “Donation for a drive to raise funds for the purchase of school bags in the Cayo North and Corozal North Constituencies. Donation requested by Mr. Omar Figueroa, Area Representative for the Cayo North Constituency.”

We reached out to the Minister to ask how this practice was any different from what happened in 2014, when it was revealed that the Belize Airports Authority, under the portfolio of then Minister Edmond Castro, was writing checks to pay for his political and personal expenses. When that news broke, Prime Minister Dean Barrow stripped Minister of Transport, Edmond Castro of the Civil Aviation portfolio and dismantled the entire BAA Board, calling the act distasteful and stating that if he were a member of the Board asked to approve checks to the Minister, he would have resigned.

Figueroa responded by telling us that: “Every year I raise funds and ask donations to purchase school bags for underprivileged kids in my constituency. I request from dozens of different places. I donate over 2,000 school bags.

Figueroa explained that the funds called “community vote,” which is distributed each month from government coffers to elected representatives, does not cover something like this.

He went on to clarify that he requested a donation of backpacks and that he “never touched any money. It was paid directly and the bags distributed. When I go to a school, for example Arms of Love, every single child gets a bag. No political segregation.”

When we suggested to Figueroa that to do this was a conflict of interest, he refused that notion.

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