Editorial for 6 July: Gov’t projects need attention

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
country.

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.

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It is truly appalling that millions of dollars are being wasted when a new building is sitting half empty. It is necessary to have a full audit to determine why each decision to continue to pay rent on any outside space was made. If it is found that outside space is being rented from a friend of anyone in authority in return for a favour then both should be sent to jail. If it is because the relevant chief officers just can’t be bothered then they should be immediately fired.

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  2. This is not the Auditor Generals most impressive report, by any means. It seems that the GOAP and schools audit were combined perhaps as they were all major capital projects started under the previous Govt, but maybe also to offset and minimize the criticism against the schools themselves. Lets hope the AG is not playing politics.

    I notice also that the AG repeatedly mentions that the Ministry of Education did not provide information in relation to Cabinet approvals. We have to assume that the AG is referring to the current Ministry of Education whom he would have had to work on the audit, however that does not mean that the former Ministry of Education did not get the necessary approvals.

    In this respect the Audit may be unfair to the previous Ministry of Education, however by lumping the schools audit with the GOAP the report is less impactful. Overall the audit review of the schools seemed lackluster. The schools are such a large under funded capital expense (ongoing)and are so controversial that they deserved a separate audit.

    I don’t think the people got value for money from the Auditor General on this one.

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