Today’s Editorial September 01: What were they thinking?

You just have to wonder what the people in the previous Ministry of Education were thinking.

They embarked on building three new high schools, two of which were well under way by the time of the last election.

The Clifton Hunter High School in Frank Sound and the new John Gray High School in George Town were originally signed for contracts totalling some $116 million.

We now know there have been claims by the builder of the two schools for $15 million above the agreed price.

In addition, we have learned that the previous government, despite cash flow problems caused by the economic crisis, authorised $8.77 million worth of work ahead of the construction schedule during the last financial year.

We’ve also learned that the previous government designed luxury items for the schools like a recording studio and planned for kitchen equipment costing $1.5 million for the two schools combined.

All of that spending and planning in economic boom times might have been acceptable, but we really have to wonder what the people at the Ministry of Education could have been thinking when they agreed to all of that during a global economic crisis that just about everyone knew was going to affect the Cayman Islands as well.

But perhaps most shocking of all is the fact that we now have learned the Ministry of Education embarked on the building of three schools that would cost the government at least $166 million without a proper project manager. Instead, to oversee such a massive capital project, it used a deputy chief officer and a former facilities manager, supported by some off-island consultants.

As a result, it’s no wonder there are many issues coming to the surface about the project, and we get the feeling the answer to the question of ‘what were they thinking’ was that the people in the former Ministry of Education weren’t really thinking at all.