Million-dollar debt: Public Works personnel to be deployed as school security staff to cut costs

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By Robert A Emmanuel

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With government owing EC$1 million to a private security firm, trained Public Works personnel are to instead be deployed to provide security at schools and other public buildings to cut costs.

 Yesterday’s Cabinet notes said monitored cameras would also be installed at various facilities for added protection.

“A significant portion of the monthly operating budget for the government is allocated to paying for security and most of these security contracts are outsourced, even here at ABS,” Information Minister Melford Nicholas told media at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

“It does have the effect of accruing significant liabilities for the government, so … we are looking at managing these costs downwards and one of the ways we are contemplating it is whether or not we can deploy more personnel from the Public Works department,” the Minister explained.

On Wednesday, two lawyers from the Ministry of Legal Affairs met with Cabinet officials to confirm whether the $1 million bill was“legitimate”.

“This was a result of a judgement against the government and so that was the clarity that was required – what was the impact of the claim against the government and whether or not the claim was legitimate – so we are going to be obliged to honour the claim,” Minster Nicholas said.

The issue of security at public buildings has been a concern for the government after several break-ins were reported at school compounds, as well as an incident at the Clare Hall Secondary School where armed assailants entered the compound apparently in search of a student.

Parents and teachers have pleaded for improved security in the wake of the attacks.

Last September, the head of private company Special Security Services, Wilbur Purcell, met with Cabinet officials to discuss arrears owed to his company as discussions took place to ensure security personnel were on hand when school reopened after the summer break.

Observer media contacted Purcell, who did not confirm or deny that his company was the security firm mentioned in the Cabinet notes.

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