in waste of taxpayers, fund
Ramnarine Ramdass decided to construct a $10 million property
for commercial rental, he almost certainly didnt expect
his investment to become a drainpipe through which more
than $4,000,000 of taxpayers money would swirl away
Ramdass, a member of the board of directors of state-owned
Petrotrin, built a three-storey building on Ramsaran Street
in Chaguanas, with large glass-panelled windows and a dramatic
gabled entrance within clear sight of the highway.
Construction of the building, within sight of the home of
the Mayor of Chaguanas, was called to a halt in 2005, as
the Government rented the property and chose to exercise
an option to complete construction to the requirements of
a temporary home for Chaguanas Magistrates Court.
On February 8, Attorney General Brigid Annisette-George
offered an unusually frank and open assessment of the Governments
involvement with the building since it took possession,
which has largely been one of spending and neglect on a
scale that must be a source of embarrassment to the administration.
Apart from the $4,000,000 spent on rent from January, 2005,
to January, 2008, the Government has allocated a further
$8,000,000 from the national purse under the Infrastructure
Development Fund for the purpose of refurbishment,
repair and purpose-built construction to bring the Ramsaran
Street building into line with the requirements of a temporary
relocation site for the Magistrates Court.
A further $300,000 has been spent on trying to stem the
problems with the existing Magistrates Court, while
the $114,000 government rent on the Ramsaran Street property
supported illicit drug use, sexual activity and general
squatting that has been the primary utilisation of the property,
all but abandoned by its renter.
While the AGs report on the situation with this Chaguanas
property has been revealing, there is still more that has
been left unsaid about a clear and complete collapse of
procedure, regarding both the use of public funds and the
processes that should logically follow the rental of a property
for government use.
Why, for instance, did the property not formally fall under
the administration of either the Housing Development Corporation,
Ministry of Works, or even, by default, the Attorney Generals
Office, for the initiation of the most rudimentary of post-rental
Who was responsible for securing the property, commissioning
design plans for its refurbishment and scheduling completion
and transition dates for the planned resiting of Chaguanas
With this scandalous use of taxpayers money now public,
what is the Government going to do next?
The idea of spending $12 million on a property constructed
for $10 million by its owner, in order to house temporarily
the Magistrates Court, simply makes no sense.
Pursuing such a course of action would only represent a
further affront to the sensibilities of the public.
What we are witness to here is waste on an epic scale; money
spent and money budgeted with no eye on results, or even
the most elementary considerations of return on investment.
In the face of mammoth government spending on projects,
this revelation of an almost complete failure of the normal
checks and balances that any sensible person would expect
to be in place for an expensive rental, sends a troubling
message of fiscal carelessness and a lack of responsibility
that cannot be tolerated.
The only sensible government response to this debacle is
the institution of an independent and transparent system
of internal auditing of governmental projects and expenditure
that will hold government planning and spending to internationally-accepted
standards of project management and good governance.
Despite almost continuous governmental assurances that their
plans are being executed in the best interests of the public,
the time has come for those assurances to be reviewed by
independent professionals who are not required to endorse
the public relations message of the government in power.