Taxpayers' money being wasted on local gov't ministry's head office — Brown Burke

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — People's National Party (PNP) spokesperson on local government, Dr Angella Brown-Burke has lashed out at the Ministry of Local Government's decision to spend approximately $480 million over a five-year period on renting and renovating a space for its head offices.

She said the move suggests an overall lack of due diligence and an absence of concern for the impact of the decisions on the public purse at a time when the Jamaicans were being told that the lack of funding was preventing the government from implementing critical programmes.

According to the Auditor General Department's 2018 annual report tabled in Parliament last week Tuesday, the ministry overpaid at least $7.1 million in rent because it did not independently verify the actual square footage of the property located at 61 Hagley Park Road in St Andrew.

The lease, which took effect on December 1, 2016, will see the ministry paying $76 million annually, representing a total commitment of $380 million over the five years, the Opposition contended.

In addition, renovation works have been undertaken, costing in excess of J$100 million, Brown Burke said in a statement yesterday.

She argued that no matter how it is explained, this decision to spend J$480 million on this rented space could not be considered a sound one.

The local government spokesperson said the J$200 million expenditure in the first year on rented premises bordered on the ridiculousness and unbridled excesses. She said, “the haste and piecemeal approach to the lease and renovation contracts opened the door to corruption and waste of tax-payers' money.”

Brown Burke further questioned what could have led to such an elementary breakdown in procedures and the procurement processes to have allowed such a gigantic waste to occur.

“Who is to be held responsible for such a horrible decision, and how will these public funds be recovered?” she asked.

She said, the Opposition is placing these questions and concerns in the public domain because we expect these questions to be answered in short order, notwithstanding the ministry saying it is committed to implementing control systems and mechanisms to streamline and guide similar projects in the future.

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