Delays put CPBL at risk

There is an apparent disagreement among

some shareholders of the Citrus Products of

Belize Limited (CPBL) over who should be

appointed as the new auditors.

And this is causing a prolonged delay in the

company being audited.

A signed letter by 13 of the shareholders

dated December 31, 2013, and addressed

to Gary King, chairman of Banks Holdings

Limited (BHL) and director of the CPBL, said

despite a unanimous decision by shareholders

present at an extraordinary general (EGM)

meeting held on December 20, to appoint

a new audit firm for the 2012-2013 fiscal

year, the process to implement the decision

continued to be “frustrated”.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained

by Barbados TODAY, said “the resulting

delays in the appointment of the new auditors

places the company at significant risk with

its bankers”.

It said the shareholders present at the

EGM, which represented approximately 53

per cent of the issued and outstanding shares

of the company, “unanimously approved the

appointment of Baker Tilly Hulse as the new

auditors of the company for the fiscal year

ended September 30, 2013”.

The audit fee was BZ$160,000 compared

with the “standard fee” of BZ159,300 from

the previous auditor.

It was advised that the completion and

provision of audited financial statements was

a formal requirement as per the terms and

conditions of banking facilities granted by the

CPBL bankers, and that the company was

“obliged to provide those to the commercial

banks by December 31, 2013”.

The letter said the EGM was held to

complete and approve the appointment of the

new auditors to ensure the implementation

and commencement of the audit engagement

“as early as possible in January”.

The letter said: “We look forward to

the full facilitation of Baker Tilly Hulse

immediately commencing the audit of the

company for 2012-2013 fiscal year”.

However, a response from King said it was

“established” by the corporate secretary of

CPBL that the EGM was not properly called

and therefore “no such meeting existed”.

In an email dated January 21, 2014, a

representative of the Orange Growers

Trust, Anthony Chanona explained to

King that the EGM was convened after

CPBL board of directors were “overheard

in much discussion” as to the merits of a

recommendation for a change in its auditors.

Chanona said: “The citrus industry of

Belize and the livelihood of hundreds of citrus

growers is being held hostage, once again, to

a fruit payment insecurity; this time by this

cavalier position of a BHL director”.

“This action of choice by the BHL

directors on the CPBL board not to

acquiesce to execute a constitutional vote

by the owners of this company of their

decision to have appointed new auditors and

have completed CPBL’s audit is wrong by

any standard of moral decency and ethical

behaviour. I hope to persevere to have this

matter addressed and resolved. So help me

God,” said Chanona.

However, in his response King said he

could only “reaffirm BHL’s position” to a

tender process in order to appoint an auditor.

He said it would be “irresponsible for anyone

to agree to changing the auditor regardless to

the ramifications, without first ensuring that a

qualified competitive alternative existed”.

King said given the alternatives in Belize,

excluding the incumbent from the process

would place CPBL in a “price-taking position”.

He said it appeared that “someone is

[determined] to have BTH favoured”

and that “pre-disposition” was now

a cause for “concern to BHL as a

substantial shareholder”.

He gave the assurance however,

that BHL was “agreeable to either PKF or

BTH being the auditor based on the most

competitive quote”. (MM)

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