There's been some concerns raised about a memorandum from the Ministry of Finance which was sent out on July 29th which has been making its rounds on social media.
The memorandum shows Artemio Osorio writing on behalf of the Financial Secretary, stating the ministry has no objection to spending 1.6 million dollars on a medical stores building in Belmopan. The letter further adds that the funds will be obtained from a grant from the NHI fund reserve.
Using NHI funds for the construction of a building for the Ministry of Health however, has raised eyebrows and today Opposition Leader Hon. John Briceno issued a letter to Prime Minister Dean Barrow on the matter. In his letter the opposition leader raises concern over the issuance of that memorandum adding and we quote “Cognizant of the provisions enacted to establish and manage the National Health Insurance Scheme (Chapter 44 of the Laws of Belize, Part VI), I bring to your attention that the letter and spirit of this law do not allow for this. The provisions are clear that the NHI funds can only be used for NHI services and/or NHI related expenses. The construction of this building does not in my opinion, fall under any of these. Moreover, the Belize Social Security Board does not have the statutory authority to use these funds in this way, and if allowed would be in contravention of the legislation. I expect this issue to be rectified with urgency” And late this evening Prime Minister Dean Borrow responded to the letter sent by Opposition Leader Hon. John Briceno. In his letter Prime Minister Barrow validates the memorandum by maintaining that the Ministry of Finance was simply confirming the position of the Ministry of Health and not attempting to approve a grant from the NHI Fund Reserve as it is being purported.
The letter adds and we quote “Finance wished to make clear that the Ministry of Finance would not itself be allocating any building funds, and that there would be no comeback on this from the Ministry of Health. How the Ministry of Health expected to persuade the Belize Social Security Board to vote the monies out of the NHI Reserve, which BSSB manages, was always a matter for the Ministry of Health.” Unquote
The letter continues “You say that BSSB does not have the statutory authority to use the Reserve Fund for the purpose Ministry of Health wishes. You may well be right, but that is a matter for the Board and the legal advice it may seek in the event it wishes to give any consideration to any application the Ministry of Health may make.” unquote
The Prime Minister ends by adding “in my view, and especially in the current circumstances, MOH ought not to make any such application.