Wed | Dec 6, 2023

Embattled minister to repay salary given on ‘unpaid leave’

Published:Wednesday | September 27, 2023 | 12:09 AM


Prime Minister John Briceño says efforts are being made to get embattled Minister of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation Andre Perez to repay the salaries he has received since taking “unpaid” leave from the Cabinet.

Last month, Prime Minister Briceño accepted a request from Perez for a leave of absence from the cabinet that would facilitate the probe into allegations that had been made against him. A government statement said then that “at the conclusion of the investigation, the attorney general and minister of legal affairs will advise the prime minister on whether there has been any actionable wrongdoing”.

The Rural South Area representative is embroiled in a scandal involving a female attorney who has made allegations against the minister. Media reports said a demand is being made for a criminal investigation to be launched, given the graphic descriptions shared by the attorney in her account of what purportedly took place involving Perez.

But speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Briceño said he had become aware of salaries being paid to the minister, who had “ asked for a leave of absence,” adding “it is an unpaid leave of absence.

“He is not a cabinet minister, so how can he get his salary. Let’s start on that basis. And, it seems the cabinet secretary did in fact forget to pass it down the chain of command that he should not get that salary. We are hoping now, the ‘cab sec’ will speak with him and he will have to refund that first part that he got, because he was not a minister of cabinet,” Briceño added.

Cabinet Secretary Stuart Leslie has since said that he failed to inform the finance officer to cut Perez’s pay.

Asked by reporters whether Perez is still the representative for Belize Rural South and is being paid as a parliamentarian, Prime Minister Briceño replied, “Of course he is still an area rep and he gets the constituency development fund, and he is still the representative for Belize Rural South.”

Last week, Attorney General Anthony Sylvestre said the investigation is ongoing and will be done “in a timely manner”.