The first group of General Post Office staff will be moved into the new Town Centre Mall location within two weeks, as the government seeks to have the relocation completed before Christmas, Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells said yesterday.
The government recently passed a controversial resolution to lease space in Town Centre Mall to house the General Post Office.
Immigration Minister Brent Symonette and his brother are the principal owners of the mall.
When asked about the status of that relocation outside Parliament, Wells said, “Drawings were done by the previous administration. We’ve reviewed those drawings. We’ve made some changes to the drawings, the work is underway at the post office and we are looking to be able to have those folks in there, as we said, by Christmas.
“The first set of construction works, that is commencing and that will be completed is the Post Office Savings Bank.
“We are moving the Post Office Savings Bank into the area of the old Barclays Bank and we’re moving the cafeteria area from on the second floor to the lower floor in what was Subway, so it makes that kind of transition very easy for us to do the requisite renovations in those places.
“So we’re looking to have the Post Office Savings Bank staff be the first set who move and we’re looking for that to happen within the next two weeks or so.”
Wells added that there are “no unforeseen challenges, other than just us agreeing on the workspaces and agreeing on the additional drawings.”
The government intends to lease 75,000 square feet of space for the “concessionary” rate of $12 per square foot or $900,000 a year. The landlords will bear the $3.5 million cost of renovating the building.
Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine, Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, Bains and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson and Centreville MP Reece Chipman all voted against the resolution on the matter, after telling the House they could not support the decision, which they contend places Symonette in a clear conflict of interest.
Miller called the resolution a “brazen perpetuation of corruption”, while McAlpine said the optics of the resolution did not look good.
Robinson said he does not believe Cabinet ministers should benefit from government contracts and Chipman called it a dereliction of duty.
When asked yesterday his thoughts about those critiques, Wells retorted, “First of all, the law makes provisions for it…And not just the law, the constitution, the highest law in this country, that cannot be questioned, makes provision for it. So that means that is not something that is illegal or something that is underhanded.
“The law says if someone who is elected enters into business with government, the thing they have to do is to declare and the Parliament has to give them the opportunity to vote that the member not be forced to vacate their seat. We did all of that.
“Now if you have a problem with that, and you believe that no member of Parliament should have any sort of contract with the government of The Bahamas, mind you, let’s remember our founders, our forefathers who established this nation didn’t think there was a problem with it; they just thought what you ought to do is go through the right procedures to do it.
“Now if we, who are their children, who have come along now to govern this country, believe that there is a problem with that kind of thinking, then what we ought to be doing is make suggestions to change the constitution of The Bahamas. That’s what we should be doing, rather than complaining about it.
“And so at the end of the day, if you feel aggrieved in any which way, or you have a particular position on something, and believe that something is untoward, then at the end of the day let us move in the way of correcting it in legislation.”