Betting and gaming agency's gamble - Two years and $240 million later, commission yet to move to new Hagley Park Road property
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
After spending just under $61 million in mortgage payments over the past two years, the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) is yet to move into its Hagley Park Road building which it purchased for $240 million.
The commission is still stuck at its Ruthven Road headquarters, which it has long outgrown while the building metres from Half-Way Tree in St Andrew remains unoccupied.
Derek Peart, executive director of the BGLC, told The Sunday Gleaner that the commission had planned to move into its new home by June 2012 after the October- 2010 purchase.
But, after a few hiccups in the process to get the building ready, that date has been pushed back to March 2013.
Back in November 2010, the purchase was the source of indignation for some members of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee.
The members questioned how the then Bruce Golding-led Cabinet could sanction a purchase that seemingly contradicted its commitment to move its agencies and departments to downtown, Kingston in a bid to resuscitate the heart of the capital city.
Last week, Peart explained that delays in the procurement process and the workload of the project managers - the National Works Agency (NWA) - were largely responsible for the setback.
"I think some of it might have been because of the NWA - the project manager - (was) undertaking several other projects," said Peart.
The BGLC head said he understands the NWA's position because some of what it had to respond to were bonafide exigencies.
"Even with the (recent) flooding ... I can't argue with a quantity surveyor who has to go deal with a blocked road," said Peart.
He admitted that he did not foresee the commission's misfortunes when the purchase was made back in 2010.
"Not to the length of time it is taking, I must admit that. The time value of money is a factor ... if you are six months behind schedule there is a cost," said Peart, while adding that the BGLC was abiding by every letter of the Government's procurement law.
"It is a source of disappointment on our part because the relocation has implications for several (capital) projects," said Peart.
He told our news team that work on the roof of the Hagley Park Road building had to be re-tendered recently because of a variance between the comparable estimate and the actual pricing in the bid.
"The GOJ (Government of Jamaica) procurement guidelines require an estimate of the cost of proposed works as part of the procurement process.
"When bids are submitted they have two separate components - technical and financial ... in this particular case, the contractor was found to be suitable but pricing was found to be more than 15 per cent above the comparable estimate which is not allowed by the guidelines," explained Peart.
A new request for proposal for the roof has been advertised and bids are being submitted, said the BGLC head.
So far, the State's betting, gaming and lotteries regulator has spent just under $12 million on refurbishing work at 78 Hagley Park Road which once housed Shirlhome Chemicals.
Peart said he could not provide the total to be spent on the project because the tender process was not complete.
However, Peart revealed that the BGLC plans to sell its old headquarters as soon as it moves into its new Hagley Park Road home.
At the time of the purchase, the BGLC paid down $100 million and took out a $140-million vendor's mortgage at a rate of 16 per cent over seven years.
The monthly payment then was $2.78 million. In August this year, the Commission made a lump-sum payment of $60 million on the mortgage leaving a balance of $58 million to be repaid over five years at $1.2 million each month.
Despite the delays, Peart expressed no regret over the purchase.
The BGLC boss said he is confident the performance level of his team will improve with the move to its new headquarters because all its administrative functions will be centralised on one building as opposed to the three separate buildings the commission operates out of at the Ruthven Road premises.
"We are in a situation where we are literally tumbling over each other and that affects the level of productivity and the comfort of the staff. We have communicated with the staff asking for patience," said Peart.
In 2010, when news of the BGLC's purchase was first announced, Peart had declared that the Commission had been seeking a new home since 1995.