Thursday, Jul 9, 2020
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Wasting the people’s money

Dear Editor,

When one takes the time to view a number of so-called investments by previous PLP administrations, it is easy to understand why many people are of the view that the persons responsible for these “investments” should never again darken the halls of Parliament.

In the 1970s, the government acquired the Royal Victoria Hotel property on Parliament Street, the proposal being that the building would be renovated to house a future Parliament building. Whether or not the building was suited for that purpose, we will never know, but what we do know is that the building was left to rot and ultimately collapse before converting the property primarily into a parking lot.

During the first Christie administration, the government determined that it would be a good investment for the National Insurance Board to acquire the E.D. Sasoon building on the corner of Parliament and Shirley Street, opposite the Royal Victoria parking lot. The first order of business was to rename the building the Rodney E. Bain Building, which is really an insult to his good name. We understand that the building has all sorts of structural issues, the basement floods whenever it rains, and the building is, no doubt, infected with mold.

With investments of this nature, one can understand why NIB is rapidly becoming bankrupt. The millions wasted on this investment are incalculable and, no doubt, it would be more cost effective to demolish the building and construct a new one as opposed to trying to renovate the structure. That is assuming that the government is in need of further premises, although it is becoming increasingly apparent that it would be better for government to lease premises as it is unable to provide proper maintenance for its buildings. It would be very interesting to know what value was placed on the “investment” in the books of NIB. Heads should really roll for this type of hair-brained “investment”.

The next debacle was to acquire the Lloyds Bank building at the corner of George and Duke Streets, north of Christ Church Cathedral. Anyone in construction knows that the building, which briefly housed the Ministry of Tourism, had numerous construction issues, but it seems that persons in the administration thought that they knew better and purchased the building. Whether the “investment” was made with NIB funds or came out of the consolidated fund, I do not know. What I do know is that it was a terrible investment and since acquiring the property, the building has been repainted at least four times, often during the Christmas period when, no doubt, some of the party faithful looking to receive some money during the festive season, get a contract to do so. The renovations, which have been ongoing for more than 10 years, finally appear, at least from the exterior, to be near completion. One has to wonder at what cost; and when one hears reports of the initial cost and renovations costing in the region of $30 million, it is quite believable. If, however, the government ends up with a property worth less than $10 million, when the actual cost is shown to be in the neighborhood of $30 million, then surely such a waste of public funds would necessitate a full-scale investigation.

A further total waste of money was the purchase of the property to the east of Goodman’s Bay known as “La Playa”. At one stage, it was touted that the property was acquired for use as a residence for the prime minister, although when the professionals advised that it was totally unsuitable as it would be a nightmare from a security standpoint in that persons would have easy access from the seashore and the property would be faced with loud music on weekends and public holidays, that hair-brained proposal was dropped.

It was then suggested that the property would be used to house or for entertaining foreign dignitaries, however, the same issues would arise as those which were faced when it was considered as a residence for the prime minister. As a consequence, the building remains unattended and is slowly decaying and will, no doubt, in short order suffer the same fate as the Royal Victoria Hotel. It would, no doubt, make interesting reading to determine who sold the property to the government and the amount paid for it, the amount expended on renovations since its acquisition, whether a realtor’s commission was paid, and if so to whom, etc.

The answers that the public would be seeking in these and numerous other instances, would, in all likelihood not require a Freedom of Information Act in order to obtain them. This information should be readily available, and I urge the government to share the details.

If any government is intent on moving our country forward, one should ensure that such reckless expenditure of public moneys (to put it politely) never happens again.

– Richard Lightbourn

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