Sunday 8 December, 2019

Gov't to save over $18M in rental fees as Government Campus opens

The government is set to save more than $18 million a year in rental fees, now that the Government Campus Plaza has been opened and occupied.

This is according to Finance Minister Colm Imbert who was speaking at the opening ceremony at the Port of Spain facility on Tuesday morning.

The sprawling facility boasts a number of "modern" features including a restaurant, gym and daycare.

It is located on 1,154,000 sq ft and will house the Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry of Finance, the Board of Inland Revenue and the associated Archive Building of the Ministry of Finance, the Immigration Division of the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs.

Imbert said the facility came at a high cost but was necessary in order to reduce the millions of rental fees paid to property owners.

"It was absolutely necessary to improve the accommodation and working conditions of public servants, many of whom have worked for years in old and cramped offices," he said.

"At the time of the conceptualization of this project 15 years ago, it was felt that it was appropriate that where feasible, the Government should own and occupy its own buildings, rather than continuing to pay millions of dollars in rent. This premise is even more relevant today, especially in view of the significant sunk costs in this project."

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said there would now be a number of free spaces in Port of Spain as several private property owners would no longer have the government as a client. He urged them to use their spaces to provide housing, as he said the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) alone could not cater to the housing needs of the population.

Minister of Public Administration and Communications Maxie Cuffie said the new facilities would drastically reduce the number of public servants working under unsuitable conditions as more than 3,000 public officers would be housed at the Government Campus Plaza.

However, he said the buildings alone would not be enough to improve service in the public sector but public servants themselves must do their part.

“The Government has done its part, and now those who occupy and those who utilize the services offered in these buildings must do their own.”

Rowley acknowledged the contributions of the late Patrick Manning, under whose leadership the Government Campus Plaza was initially started.

He added that construction on a number of other incomplete projects would begin soon.

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