Saturday 21 September, 2019

Gov't saddled with $2.8B burden to finish schools started under PP

Former Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh built a number of "imaginary schools" during his tenure.

This is according to Finance Minister Colm Imbert who disputed Gopeesingh's claims of having built 106 schools while the People's Partnership was in government. 

Imbert made the comment at a joint news conference with Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis on Friday.

He said contrary to Gopeesingh's claims, some 118 schools were started under the People's Partnership but most were not completed. Some, he said, were barely even started and were no more than construction sites.

He said the People's National Movement (PNM) government is now saddled with a $2.8 billion burden to complete the schools.

“We were not given 100 schools by the previous administration. We were given 100 construction projects, most of them in a complete state of disarray,” Imbert stated, noting that upwards of $700 million had already been spent on the projects.

The State is also facing litigation from contractors for outstanding monies, Imbert added. 

He said contractors have brought action against the Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) and in some cases default judgements were granted as there were no records or information regarding their contracts. 

Robinson-Regis said the litigation has cost the government over $1 billion thus far. 

This has affected the government's construction programme, Imbert said as new projects have to be put aside in order to finish the incomplete schools.

Garcia, too, said Gopeesingh's claims of having built 106 schools were "absolutely false".

He said Gopeesingh claimed to have built 69 Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) centres but only 33 were completed.

Gopeesingh also claimed to have built 31 primary schools but only 16 were completed, Garcia said.

And, of the six secondary schools Gopeesingh claimed to have built, Garcia said none were actually completed.

The government has prioritised 27 schools which it will be moving to complete by the end of next year at a cost of $561 million.

Questioned whether there was a need for so many new schools, Robinson-Regis said the PNM government relies on statistical and scientific information to determine which areas new schools should be built in but she said it appeared that this was not done by the previous government. 

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