Towering rent for Housing - Super ministry spends $92 million on property rentals; minister prefers old ministry building to New Kingston luxury
Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
The Government is using rented office space inside the Towers building, in New Kingston, to house one of the three ministers appointed to the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing (MTWH).
The rented space houses the executive office of Dr Morais Guy, the minister with responsibility for housing, along with a number of state agencies that fall within his portfolio.
Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies and his junior minister, Richard Azan, are housed in office space owned by the ministry at Maxfield Avenue in St Andrew.
Explaining the rationale for the separation, Guy said with the change in administration, the housing portfolio was removed from the former Ministry of Water and Housing and added to the Ministry of Transport and Works.
Not his decision
He said all the agencies that fall under the housing portfolio were already located at the Towers, "hence it seems prudent that I should also be located there".
"So it is not a decision on my part to say, well, I would like a fancy building in New Kingston and I want my office there," Guy told The Gleaner yesterday.
"The reality is that it would be more dislocating to have the legal department, the technical department and the social services department housed in about three or four floors of the Towers relocated to I don't know where, and the minister sitting at Maxfield (Avenue)," he added.
It was revealed in Parliament this week that it is costing taxpayers in excess of $1.1 billion a year to rent properties for various government ministries, departments and agencies.
Millions on rentals
The Public Sector Transformation Unit, which brought the information to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, said the MTWH has already spent over $92 million on property rentals this year.
The Ministry of National Security topped the list, spending over $222 million on rentals.
Guy acknowledged that the MTWH is "a significant owner of property" across all its portfolios and said steps are now being taken to rehabilitate at least one property, located along Hagley Park Road in St Andrew, to be utilised by the ministry.
"I have asked the permanent secretary to have the National Works Agency have a look at it to see whether it can be rehabilitated for use by the ministry," he said.
Added Guy: "If we have the properties, we ought not to have the luxury of renting in New Kingston."