Mon | May 29, 2017

HAJ to give update on financial health

Published:Monday | March 20, 2017 | 3:00 AMJovan Johnson

Almost two weeks before the 2016-2017 financial year ends, the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ), which racked up almost $900 million in losses for one financial year, is today expected to reveal how the agency's financial position has turned around and whether a $60-million profit target will be met.

The agency's press conference follows The Gleaner's report Saturday, which referenced a suggestion in December by Horace Chang, the minister with responsibility for housing, that the HAJ would record losses of $900 million for this financial year. However, days after Chang's comment, the HAJ had issued a clarification saying Chang had been speaking about the 2015-2016 financial year.

The 10 a.m. briefing with the media also follows the March 9 tabling of the agency's latest annual report (2015-2016) in the Parliament that said the agency continued to "struggle financially".

"The performance for the period ending March 31, 2016 shows a loss of approximately $886 million, including provisioning for works to be completed on projects starting as far back as 2011. It was expected that sales closures, especially for the Jamaica Economical Housing Project, would have occurred during the period, but this did not materialise," read a section of the report.

ON TARGET

The report noted that the new board appointed in April 2016, after the change of administration, would move to stem the financial bleeding.

Managing Director Gary Howell said last December that the agency was on target to once again become profitable, noting that up to October 31, 2016, the HAJ managed to reduce its losses to $4.8 million.

"Initially, our budget was showing that we would have been at a loss position of $163 million, but as at October 31, the position is different," said Howell, referring to measures being undertaken by the agency to ensure its viability.

That profitability, he said, was driven by sales of houses at its latest development, The Vistas in Runaway Bay, St Ann.

The HAJ is a land and housing development company that provides housing solutions for low- and middle-income earners, with one of its specific mandates being to upgrade squatter settlements.

In the past two years, the agency has been rocked by a series of controversies. Just last July, five senior managers were dismissed amid accusations of gross mismanagement at the government entity.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com