Sun | Jan 19, 2020

NHT cash splash

Published:Wednesday | November 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Simpson Miller

Board plans to shell out $20m more for Outameni brand, equipment

Tameka Gordon & Daraine Luton, Staff Reporters

THE NATIONAL Housing Trust (NHT) will have to spend an additional $20 million to acquire chattels, intellectual property, script, and props from the Outameni Experience in Tre-lawny in order to operate the cultural attraction.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller revealed in the House of Representatives yesterday that the Trust has only purchased the Orange Grove property that houses the facility.

The intellectual property rights and Outameni brand are owned by a Canada-based company, Barefoot Princess Incorporated Toronto.

Meanwhile, an internal memorandum, prepared on September 1 for the finance committee by the acting managing director, Martin Miller, suggests that the purchase of the property alone is not in keeping with the overall plan of the Trust to reposition the Outameni Experience.

"Sometime in August 2013, it became clear that the NHT had not bought all the assets of the Orange Valley Holding Limited as it relates to the Outameni Experience but had only purchased the buildings and that there would need to be further negotiations with Mr Lennie Little-White to acquire the chattels, including the props and equipment used in the presentation of the Experience," the memorandum said.

On Tuesday, Lennie Little-White declined to comment when pressed on the relationship between Outameni and Barefoot Princess.

But Little-White declared: "NHT did not buy the Outameni concept; they did not buy the name; they did not buy the chattels; they did not buy the copyright. [NHT] bought the land and the buildings."

To deliver the Outameni Experience, the Trust's acting managing director proposed the purchase of "the chattels, the intellectual property, the script, and props".

"The purchase of chattels and intellectual property rights related to the reoperating of the Experience is at an estimated cost of $20 million," the memorandum added.

The NHT has spent $180 million to purchase the property and will spend another $111 million over the next three years to improve it.

Simpson Miller, while responding to questions tabled last week by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, said she had been informed by the board of the NHT that it was mulling the possibility of opening an educational, cultural, heritage, and tourist attraction at the site.

"I have instructed that they should explore ways of using the property for social and physical infrastructure to enhance the quality of life and for the enjoyment of NHT contributors, Jamaicans, and visitors. I have also instructed that the NHT look at the tourism potential of the area to examine ways to maximise the returns on the investment," the prime minister said.

She said, however, that the NHT "is not the Ministry of Tourism. They cannot run a tourism project on that property because they are not the Ministry of Tourism".

Simpson Miller revealed that the NHT purchased the Orange Grove property in Trelawny and not the Outameni Experience brand.

Prior to the sale, Orange Valley Holding staged the dramatisations under a five-year licence from Barefoot Princess, which owns the performance rights. Barefoot provided the actors and music.

But Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance, referred to an internal memorandum that made it clear that the Outameni Experience was part of the deal and accused Simpson Miller of misleading Parliament.

"What the prime minister has said in her answer is inconsistent with what is in the information from the National Housing Trust," Shaw said.

In addition, the internal memorandum said that the NHT decided to have an independent valuator assign values to the items to be purchased.

In the internal memorandum, prepared on September 1 for the finance committee, 2015 was earmarked for the "Outameni Experience Grant Opening" at a capital cost of $5 million.

The memorandum said that the reopening would require the use of certain items for the great house at a cost of $2.1 million, the purchasing of chairs and tables, antique furniture, and 20'x20' tents.

The play area, which the document said would facilitate educational research facilities, local parties, and fun days at a capital cost of $20 million, is expected to generate $12 million for the NHT in 2015.

The NHT acquired part of Orange Grove lands for $180 million. The transfer of the title was effective on May 27, 2013, with official possession on July 23, 2013.

Yesterday, however, Simpson Miller said the first time she learnt of the sale was on October 30, 2014, when The Gleaner broke the story. She announced that the auditor general would conduct an audit of the acquisition of the property.

Holness, however, said it appeared that the NHT funds had been used for a bailout.