Criticism accompanies opening of new Treasury Building

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By Latrishka Thomas

After six years of waiting, the State Insurance Company (SIC) Treasury building was finally completed and was unveiled on Friday. However, speakers at the opening ceremony were not remiss in mentioning the duration it took to complete the project.

In fact, in her remarks, the Chairman of the SIC Board, Leslie Ann Yearwood, reminded attendees that the ground-breaking ceremony for the building – the brainchild of former minister of finance Dr. Errol Cort and the then chairman, Pedro Corbin – took place on January 25th 2013.

“The needs of the ever-expanding staff of the Treasury Department and the other issues that they were facing could have been solved if there was only another location to place them…we’re here to officially turn over this building after six years of construction with its many challenges – well over budget, but completed – to the Treasury department to be used for the purpose for which it was built,” Yearwood said.

“Today [Friday 9th August] makes us all very happy. This investment – for it is indeed an investment for [State Insurance] – will reap great rewards for the next 20 years under our arrangement for the next two floors. The third floor, which houses a state of the art conference facility, will be available for renting and provide the needed facility in the heart of St. John’s for any and every occasion.”

Minister of Works Lennox Weston also rained down criticism on those involved in developing the project.

“This should be a lesson for all government statutory bodies that no longer will we allow projects not to go over budget…by nearly 75 percent. It is no longer acceptable because we want to be congenial and nice to each other to pat each other on the back if a building takes six years to build. It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.

“And so, while we are here to celebrate the completion of the project [State Insurance Treasury Building], all of us as taxpayers, all of us as voters, all of us who know how hard it is to earn money, we are all our brother’s keeper and we are responsible for holding the government’s feet to the fire to say we will never ever allow three buildings by the same contractor to cost us over $50 million extra,” Weston said.

In highlighting that the project was far over budget, Weston – who is also Minister of State for Finance – pointed fingers at the former contractor hired for the Antigua & Barbuda Department of Marine Services (ADOMS) project and exclaimed that the government needs to be compensated for its pecuniary loss.

“And so, the next big issue is … we are facing the same problem at the ADOMS building. The guy who was given the job … who was in charge of three major projects in this country and cost the people of this country over $50 million – we want the police to find him because we want our money back,” Weston added.

Meantime, the Public Works Minister guaranteed that the Sunshine Hub car park on Independence Drive and the ADOMS building on Factory Road will be completed in short order.

“We are giving the Antiguan public the assurance that the car park will be finished within the next 12 months and the ADOMS building will be finished within the next three or four weeks. We are going to clean up these bad experiences. We are going to move forward in a more productive and a more dedicated fashion. We owe the people of Antigua and Barbuda the best. They elected this government to give them the best. They will accept nothing less,” he said.

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