Brown Burke lashes local gov't ministry for excess spending on main office
Opposition Spokesperson on Local Government Dr Angela Brown Burke has described as irresponsible and reckless the millions spent by the Ministry of Local Government on renting and renovating its head offices in St Andrew.
The Auditor General Department, in its 2018 annual report tabled in Parliament last week Tuesday, highlighted that the ministry has overpaid at least $7.1 million in rent because it did not independently verify the actual square footage of the property.
The ministry entered into a $76 million per annum 5-year lease agreement effective December 1,2016 for premises located at 61 Hagley Park Road in St Andrew.
The ministry also racked up $30 million in cost overruns for renovations and is paying $2 million per year above market rates for a parking shed.
Brown Burke argues that the ministry's action shows a lack of regard for public funds and the impact on taxpayers.
She says the ministry must move to recover these funds.
The People’s National Party’s (PNP) Shadow Minister of Local Government, Dr Angella Brown-Burke, M.P., says the Auditor General’s report looking into the relocation of the Local Government Ministry suggests an overall lack of due diligence and an absence of concern for the impact of the decisions on the public purse at a time when the Jamaicans were being told that the lack of funding was preventing the government from implementing critical programmes.
In a statement today, following the tabling of the 2018 Auditor General’s report, Dr Brown Burke said the decision to rent premises for J$76 million per annum is an irresponsible and reckless expenditure placed on the public purse. She said the rental for five years represented a total commitment of J$380 million.
In addition, there were renovation works undertaken, costing in excess of J$100 million. She said no matter how it is explained, this decision to spend J$480 million on this rented space could not be considered a sound one.
The Local Government Shadow Minister said the J$200 million expenditure in the first year on rented premises bordered on the ridiculousness and unbridled excesses. She said, “the haste and piecemeal approach to the lease and renovation contracts opened the door to corruption and waste of tax-payers’ money.”
Dr Brown Burke said the total disregard for advice, given by the National Land Agency (NWA) and the agreement to pay rates above market rates was extremely worrisome. She questioned what could have led to such an elementary breakdown in procedures and the procurement processes to have allowed such a gigantic waste to occur.
“Who is to be held responsible for such a horrible decision, and how will these public funds be recovered?” she asked.
She said the Opposition is placing these questions and concerns in the public domain because we expect these questions to be answered in short order, notwithstanding the Ministry saying it is committed to implementing control systems and mechanisms to streamline and guide similar projects in the future.
Dr Brown Burke said in any event, the sequence of decisions and activities suggest “a total lack of understanding of the plight of the Jamaican people and a disregard for the protection of taxpayers’ money.”
She said further that the unfortunate lack of oversight, negligence, and incompetence are now characteristic of the Andrew Holness Administration, and Jamaica just cannot afford a continuation of this in a business as usual manner.