pennerMonths after being fired from Cabinet, the infamous Cayo North East Representative Elvin Penner made an appearance at the very first House of Representatives meeting yesterday in Belmopan. As you may be aware, Penner remains in the spotlight as the mastermind of the biggest Immigration Scandal in Belize’s history as information surfaced that he facilitated a Belizean Passport for Won Hong Kim who did not even step foot in Belizean territory when his passport was issued because he was incarcerated in Taiwan. Since the news broke, Prime Minster Barrow has stripped Penner of his government portofolio, but that’s where it ended. He did not face criminal charges, despite credible evidence of his participation and up to date, is still receiving his full salary plus all the perks and extras that any elected Minister would receive.


Well, yesterday after the House Meeting, the media spoke with Prime Minster Barrow on Penner’s status and reappearance at the House of Representatives. Let’s just say, the PM remains unfazed.


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Sir, but is he still in receipt of the Government's monies for purchasing fuel, phone this sort of thing?"


Prime Minister Dean Barrow


"No, not for phones, I had explained that he is still chairman of a house committee, and the practice has been from the time of the last administration that chair persons of house committees are given a Government vehicle. So, yes, he still is in possession of the government vehicle. If he ceases to be chairman of a house committee, then the vehicle will be taken away. For him to cease to be chairman of the House Committee we would have to convene the committee of selection and in fact procure that result. I had indicated that he had not come to house meetings, and so, it appeared to me that we would have needed to move in that direction. It's a matter that clearly will be under advisement. But the house committee chairpersons that were not ministers were limited in terms of the amount of fuel they were given a monthly allocation, they didn’t just had a card that entitled them to unlimited fuel and in this case I looked at the records and it appeared that the standard things was eighty gallons per month and that is what it remains in place as of now, am saying possible subject to change."  


Jules Vasquez- Reporter


"Sir, but you can remove him from being the chair of a house committee."


Prime Minister Dean Barrow


"The Committee of Selection would have to do that. There is a process, not that we can’t get it done, if we the majority, we can get it done. I am trying to say to you that there is a process. That process has not been triggered. I was contemplating and we were looking to see whether we ought to have triggered it or started the proceedings today because the man was not coming to the house meetings, he come today so we have to go back and revisited.”

 

PM says as long as Penner remains a Chairman of the House Committee, the practice has always been that the official would be given a government vehicle. Barrow said that Penner is getting an 80 gallon allowance per month to operate that vehicle; but that he was not too fanatical with Penners vehicle seen across the border in Chetumal.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow 

 

"I spoke to Penner because I was told that the vehicle was seen across the border at Chetumal last weekend and made it plain that was not to happen, even if you are a member of the house committee and you have a vehicle you cannot take it across the border without getting permission from the minister of finance care unit and I don’t what house committee business there can be that require you to travel across the border.”

 

Reporter 


“Former Minister of Estate, Elvin Penner was in the house today could you confirm for us what is his status in terms of, I understand that since September his office has been close and hasn’t been reopen, has he still been receiving his stipend for the office and amounting I think about $7000.00 a month?”


Prime Minister Dean Barrow


“Yes, he is. Like so many other area representatives, like everybody, he receives a stipend and like so many others, he does have an office open…as far as I understand. So you are perfectly correct. That is something that he will have to account for, I supposed, to the Auditor General. We try to make the point that these funds are given to all of us as area representatives for specific purposes, but he is not the only one who is not using the money for the purposes for which they are given. But because of the practices that it is done by way of depositing monies in their accounts, it is pretty hard to be able to ensure that they open offices. Obviously I have tried to shine the light in this house on the fact that a number of area reps don’t have offices open and I had hoped that in that way they might be shamed into opening offices. All I would say that is it clear that some people have no shame.”


Reporter 


“Sir, in terms of the report that has come out in the Kim passport scandal, first of all this report concluded in October were you in the findings of this report, in the ministry of Immigration it was done by director Marin and in that report It names and several persons are interviewed and they named former minister of state Penner as the one who brought in the file which was incomplete and gave it to them with instruction to do it that he would bring the supporting documents for Kim at a later date?”


Prime Minister Dean Barrow


“Penner has been fired, the due isn’t out, there is no question in my mind as to Penner’s guilt as to the wrong that Penner did, and that's why he's been fired.”


It is of interest to note that Penner receives seven thousand dollars per month, paid into his account, which should be used to operate a constituency office and help constituents. But in an interview with Channel5, UDP Cayo Northeast Executive Committee Chairman Fermin Magana confirmed that Penner’s office has been closed ever since the scandal first broke in September of last year. 

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