Jerome Fitzgerald Answers Jeff Lloyd’s Fake News

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Good Morning Minister

I listened to a portion of your speech yesterday while driving in my car and thought it was extremely well thought out and on point.

I understand you had to put some politics in it so that’s fine.

If I could I would only make the following suggestion to you which I’m confident you know as a journalist. Before you repeat anything someone tells you confirm what they are saying is true. People say all sorts of foolish things but try to make sure you’re not one of them.

As the former Minister I could have easily given you the facts on the rationale behind the rental arrangements and the actual cost if you didn’t have the time or wished to check the cabinet Conclusions.

You will find that for the most part Cabinet Conclusions are very instructive as they represent the reasons Cabinet has made a decision and the ACTUAL cost of capital works. The challenge is that you cannot produce it publicly but you can rely on it as fact when speaking.

You are correct that during my term as Minister the government entered into a number of 5 year leases and spent significant sums renovating buildings to advance education of our children. This practice is not new and all administrations have done it in New Providence and various islands. Your research will bear this out.

For the most part they are with churches, the Catholics being the biggest recipient. But they are also with private citizens and non profits. In some instances there is a general need to expand the Ministries facilities and in other cases as with non profits they are done to reduce the burden of the non profit and allow the Ministry as a tenant to execute capital works and maintain the facility. School for the blind, deaf and PACE are examples of this if memory serves me.

The rationale for renting church buildings or land of course is that land is a scarce commodity especially in NP and churches in particular will not sell land and are not inclined to enter into long term leases. This did not bother me(or previous administrations for that matter) as all locations rented were previously schools and we all knew the moral and philosophical commitment of the church to education. Secondly I also knew they all continued to receive an annual subvention from the government to support their other schools and the likelihood of them putting their subvention in jeopardy in the future by interfering with the lease was very unlikely as was them finding another use for the property.

With regard to the particular investment on the wulff Rd property we saw it as a rare opportunity to put a school in the center of our population on couple acres of land alone (excluding the buildings) is worth anywhere from 3 to 4 millions dollars. A quick calculation will reveal that at 60k a year it would take 50 to 65 years to pay for that which in effect is a long term lease. That was the rationale. You will also see that we established the threshold of 60k a year although various denominations wanted more. You will also note that this type of arrangement was welcomed by Ministry of Finance for cash flow reasons and it made financial sense.

With regard the cost upon inspection you will see there are 2 separate buildings on the property which are included in the lease. The one which renovations have just been completed at the rear of the property is meant to house the expanded special services unit out the Ministry encorporating the unit for troubled youth. That building is complete to my knowledge and should be ready for occupancy. My recollection is that was renovated and expanded at a cost of 4M to house that unit. You would have also come to appreciate that until the Ministry of Youth vacates the building MOE is cramped in that building and over the years previous administrations has moved certain sections out of the building to free up expansion space for “core services”

The actual Estimate as completed by John Stuart the respected quantity surveyor who the Ministry hired to ensure not only there was no waste of public funds but also that the project ran smootly as experience showed that MOW involvement slowed progress. Your records will show that John Stewart was hired to manage a few projects for MOE including the AF Adderley expansion.

My recollection was that the school itself at Wulff Rd will cost 12-14M which is in line with West GB and AF Adderley.

Therefore the cost of both buildings is around 16-18M. This can be verified from the Cabinet Conclusion but I think it’s somewhat misleading if the distinction is not made that one building is an administrative building and the other a state of the art teaching facility. I’m told you’ve been briefed on the use and importance of this facility to the development, rehabilitation and education of our troubled youth.

Also your assertion that originally the property was intended for the technical cadets is untrue. Because of the fact that BTVI enrollment had expanded by 35% in the past 5 years and was in urgent need of expansion the technical cadets needed a new home and so it was my thinking that they could use it in the afternoon as it is designed to incorporate hand on intruction for all technical fields. I communicated my thinking to the then head of the unit Mr Ferguson and informed Dr Barr head of STAR Academy that not only was it a multi use facility (admin and teaching) but that there would be multiple users. Not the other way around.

If you have any further questions I’m happy to either respond or direct you to where you may find the answers.

JKF