(BY: JULIEN NEAVES) EDUCATION Minister Anthony Garcia says there was rampant corruption and inflated costs associated with two unfinished secondary schools.
He was responding to a question in Parliament on Wednesday about the expected date for recommencement of construction work on Parvati Girls Hindu College and Shiva Boys Hindu College. Garcia reported Parvati Girls and Shiva Boys was 72 per cent and 74 per cent completed respectively. He said works on both schools had been suspended by the contractors due to non-payment of invoices and the ministry was actively seeking to identify funds to meet outstanding payments and the cost of completion. “I am not now in a position to provide the proposed recommencement date of the work on these facilities.”
Princes Town MP Barry Padarath asked if in two and a half years no funds had been identified to continue the work.
Garcia responded: “We have found ourselves in a position where we had to closely look at the…construction costs of these two schools.”
He reported for Shiva Boys the “astounding figure” of $181,507,281 was the sum that was contracted and so far the Ministry of Education paid $111,714,663 towards the construction. He said for Parvati Girls the contracted sum was $141,128,105 and so far the contractor was paid $85,000,272.
“Madame Speaker you will understand the position of this ministry and the position of this Government when there was rampant corruption associated with these projects.”
“Is a university?” a Government MP asked.
Former Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh then asked Garcia if he was aware that under the PNM administration the cost of secondary schools was close to $200 million and Garcia responded he was “not aware of the figments of his imagination.”
Padarath asked if it was an issue of funds with the two facilities or issues related to the land. Garcia said the fundamental issue was the inflated costs of the projects and he added the funding the ministry has been asked to provide must be properly evaluated to ensure there was value for money. Gopeesingh said the Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis had previously said the delays were due to lack of planning approvals but Garcia reiterated that the problem was exorbitant costs though there were related concerns.