Cabinet has given approval for government to complete the Church of God Bodden Town, the large concrete structure on Shamrock Road that is intended to serve as a multipurpose hall and hurricane shelter.

Government issued a request-for-quotations document on Monday, seeking qualified bidders to serve as the project’s lead architectural design consultant. The consultant will provide all necessary professional architectural, mechanical, engineering, plumbing and fire-suppression design services for the project.

The work is projected to take about a year to complete, and will be financed by the Ministry of Commerce, Planning, and Infrastructure. The submission deadline for potential consultants is Feb. 11.

Government invested more than $1 million of public funds from 2009-2013, partly so that the church hall could also serve as a hurricane shelter.

The funding was a part of the now-defunct Nation Building Fund, a community infrastructure program under the government of then-Premier McKeeva Bush that distributed some $13.2 million to various causes, including more than $5.2 million to 26 churches.

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Of the churches that received funds for construction, some returned all or some of the money, and most – such as the Church of God Bodden Town – have been unable to finish the projects they started with government’s assistance and assurances.

In July 2015, then-Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick issued a scathing report on multiple aspects of the program, including poor accounting practices and a lack of record-keeping for 15 of the church projects reviewed.

“Without any accountability back to Government, the risk that funds provided to churches were used for purposes other than the intended purpose was high,” according to the report.

After government announced last year that the project will resume, a joint statement issued by the Premier’s Office, Hazard Management and the Planning Department portrayed the church hall project as a hurricane shelter project.

“In an ongoing effort to increase the total capacity of emergency shelters across the Cayman Islands, work continues to be done to the Church of God in Bodden Town. Updates such as a new roof and windows are currently being installed at the church in order for the building to function safely as an approved Government hurricane shelter,” according to the statement.

Government has not stated how much it will cost to finish the development, but in 2016 that figure was estimated to be $5 million. The proposed assembly hall at Bodden Town Primary School is also being developed and is expected to provide shelter space for 322 people.

“Together, both locations would create space for an additional 872, which would bring the total capacity of emergency shelters in the district to approximately 1,127 persons,” according to the government statement.

Cost estimates were also not provided for the primary school assembly hall project, and government has not issued any tender documents for that development.

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