ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Minister of State within the Ministry of Sports Senator Winston Williams said the matter pertaining to the National Olympic Committee’s (NOC) proposal to lease and manage the facility that formerly housed the old Nurses’ Hostel on Queen Elizabeth Highway is out of his hands.
Williams, during a recent interview, said he had no knowledge that keys given to the NOC after they had signed a management agreement last year had been repossessed by the government. He added that until Cabinet ratifies the ministry’s decision, his hands are tied.
“The Ministry of Sports did enter into a memorandum of understanding with the NOC as it relates to the Nurses’ Hostel pending Cabinet’s ratification and the Cabinet has not sought to ratify that arrangement; that is therefore outside of the (ambit) of the Ministry of Sports,” he said.
“We had entered into this MOU which I think lasted for two years and we may very well renew but it’s also pending Cabinet. Don’t forget that these buildings and lands are the sole ownership of the state of Antigua & Barbuda; so until Cabinet ratifies that MOU that we have signed with NOC, it is not binding.”
The minister, who said he is preparing to bow out of politics, declared his support for the proposed project but maintained the ball is now in Cabinet’s court.
“The ministry, in signing the MOU, had agreed with the NOC’s proposal as it relates to the retrofitting and using the facility as a hostel, as a meeting venue for sports and really dedicating it as a sports venue,” Williams said.
“It’s something that we need to do but until the Cabinet gives me the direction to sign a lease on behalf of the state with NOC or with anybody for that matter, I cannot go forward.”
The senator revealed that various ministries have been utilising the facility over the past two years and that could account for Cabinet’s slow pace in placing it into the hands of one entity.
“The Cabinet and their other ministries who have sought to use the very same building for other purposes, keep dealing with these issues. I have constantly sought to bring a resolution to this matter and I have simply left it at the foot of the Cabinet to make the decision and that it where it is.”
NOC President Paul “Chet” Greene had said he was asked to return the keys to the hostel by a government minister and he obliged. The NOC, he added, has received promise of financial support for the project.