Sun | Jun 25, 2017

Outameni closed, reopening December

Published:Saturday | November 8, 2014 | 11:00 AM

Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

AMID THE raging controversy and public outcry generated by the National Housing Trust's (NHT) decision to buy the Trelawny-based attraction Outameni Experience, things have seemingly gone quiet at the entity's Coopers Pen base.

When The Gleaner visited the facility on Wednesday, the main gate was padlocked, and except for a very cautious security guard, there was no other sign of life.

"The place is closed ... it has been closed since the new ownership took over," the security guard reluctantly stated. "It is being refurbished, so no tours are taking place right now."

Quizzed as to whether he had heard of a reopening timeline, the security, seemingly uncomfortable about being questioned, replied tersely, "December," and ignored all other attempts to engage him in conversation.

Civil society, members of the private sector and the opposition Jamaica Labour Party have taken issue with the NHT's decision to buy the Outameni property, arguing that J$180m spent to acquire the property should have been sourced from the Tourism Enhancement Fund.

DEVIATED FROM CORE MANDATE

Yesterday, the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) joined the chorus of voices raising concern about the acquisition of Outameni. The JCSC said it deplores the decision of the board of the NHT to purchase the Outameni Experience entity. "We believe that the NHT has deviated from its core mandate of providing housing for Jamaicans.

"Too many of our people are living in substandard housing, too many of our people are in the waiting line for housing units, while not enough are being built to satisfy the needs of the country".

The opposition has called for the property to be resold, and is demanding that the members of the Easton Douglas-chaired board be relieved of their duties.

Private-sector bodies such as the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Private Sector Organisation on Thursday called on the Office of the Contractor General and the Auditor General's Department to probe the purchase of the property.

However, the NHT board has described the investment, which will see additional $111 million being spent over the next three years on upgrading, as a wise buy.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com