Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick has recommended that
government create a centre of excellence to ensure that any capital improvement
projects it takes on going forward are done in the best interest of the
We couldn’t agree more.
Mr. Swarbrick’s office examined the high schools projects
– a multipurpose high school campus on
Frank Sound Road in North Side, a partially completed high school campus in
George Town and a vacant lot that was to have been a high school in West Bay –
and the Government Office Accommodation Project on Elgin Avenue.
What they found was that government doesn’t have in place
any kind of framework to ensure that projects are done within budget, on time,
without legal wrangling, with transparency and that, in most cases, the people
who pay for these projects by putting money into government’s coffers – us –
aren’t getting value for money.
At the end of the day, that’s what we have a government for
– to properly manage the affairs of this country.
The audit report doesn’t point a finger at any one
administration. It finds that this has been an ongoing problem and if measures
aren’t taken to address the issue, it will only get worse. As it stands now the
costs of building the Clifton Hunter High School in North Side are ridiculous
and when you factor in the various legal costs associated with the project, the
costs are becoming exorbitant. It’s supposed to open for students in September,
but there are no guarantees this will happen or that the school will be
completed when the doors do open for students.
While the audit did find some positive things to say about
the government administration building, we find it appalling that the building
is only 60 per cent occupied and government is still doling out about $2.1
million each year for leased office spaces to house workers who don’t want to
be in the building. The lack of occupancy by these departments is a classic
case of the tail wagging the dog.
The report is now in the hands of lawmakers. We hope they
take it seriously and act to give us a framework for fiscal responsibility.