Sun | Dec 11, 2016

AG: No return on $2 billion NHT investments in 10 years

Published:Tuesday | April 21, 2015 | 5:17 PMEdmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Easton Douglas (second right), chairman of the National Housing Trust, addresses the media during a press briefing at the Trust's St Andrew office last year as board members O'Neil Grant (left), Percival LaTouche (right) and Norman Horne, look on. The life of the board expired on April 2.

The Auditor General is reporting the National Housing Trust (NHT) has failed to realise any return on three major projects in the past five to 10 years that cost taxpayers more than $2 billion.

According to the Auditor General, the NHT invested in the Jamaica Lifestyle Village, Central Wastewater Treatment Company Limited and Harmonisation Limited without contemplating the cash flow impact and the expected rate of return on the investments.

In addition, the auditor general found that the Trust did not ensure that the investment decisions were in line with the existing strategy of the NHT and assessed benefit.

 

Edmond Campbell report

In June 2010, the Cabinet approved the transfer of the NHT’s shareholding in Central Wastewater Treatment Company to the National Water Commission for the nominal sum of $1.

The auditor general, in her performance audit of the NHT tabled in Parliament this afternoon, found that the Trust lost $63 million in the Jamaica Lifestyle Village - a project which never materialised.

Turning to Harmonisation Limited, the Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, said the NHT had claimed that there it had no other asset which had shown comparably significant capital gain based on market value.

But the auditor general has challenged this, saying it should be noted that the land was not acquired for resale, but to facilitate the construction of a resort colony with 4,500 hotel rooms and 500 residential units.

The investment was slated to provide direct employment for about 16,500 individuals. 

But, after 10 years, that development has also failed materialise.

The auditor general said all three investments were approved by Cabinet.

In the meantime, the Auditor General has revealed that the NHT has not initiated plans for housing development on 28 parcels of land acquired for $2.27 billion.

She noted that the NHT would have to incur exorbitant development costs to enable the construction of housing solutions for 15 parcels of land acquired for $1.38 billion.

According to Mrs Monroe Ellis,  the price of housing solutions built on these lands could prove prohibitive to contributors and remain unsold for long periods.

In addition, the auditor general has chided the NHT for spending $342.6 million on six parcels of land without first deciding what the lands would be used for.

According to Monroe Ellis, the NHT was not able to pursue housing solutions on the properties as the designation of the lands would have to be changed from agricultural to residential.