PP, PNM, paid big rent for unoccupied buildings… who are the rich owners…

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So who are the owners of properties who received big money for rent from various Governments, but these buildings were never occupied?

In the latest Auditor General report laid in the Parliament on Tuesday, it revealed that $100 million in rent was paid, yet no one occupied the properties.

In one instance, the rent crossed two administrations – PNM and then the PP.

In his report, Auditor General, Majeed Ali said there were numerous instances where various Ministries and departments continued to disregard financial regulations and instructions.

Findings included “examples of weaknesses in the system of internal control and non-compliance with legislative requirements and/or financial directives.” Concerns were also raised about lack of proper maintenance of records.

“The state of the Internal Audit function in ministries and departments remains a matter of grave concern as in prior years,” Auditor General Majeed Ali stated.

The report stated that a total of $47, 813,544.78 cents was paid for the period 2009 to 2015 for rental of the One Alexandra Street, St Clair, building.

That cost and period encompass from the 2009 tenure of the previous Patrick Manning administration, when the building was rented, to 2015. It was earmarked to be used first by the Ministry of Local Government, and then by the Ministry of the People and Social Development when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar held that Ministry.

Approvals were later seen for the outfitting of the building. Information received revealed that the lease was transferred to the Housing and Urban Development Ministry (effective August 1, 2014) and then to the Ministry of the People and Social Development (effective May 19, 2015).

The report stated the building remained unoccupied from inception of the lease in December 2009. No new payments were made after June 2015.

Payments on the lease comprised the Local Government Ministry’s payment of $40,223,544.78 cents (December 1, 2009 to July 31, 2014). The Housing Ministry also paid $6.9 million (August 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015) and the Property and Real Estate Division paying $690,000 (June 1-30 2015).

The report also stated the Attorney General’s office leased a building on Pembroke Street, Port-of-Spain, in June 2012 at a monthly rental of $115,000 and it remained unoccupied until March of this year.

The report stated amounts totalling $4.3 million were spent on outfitting the building. Total rental of $4.4 million was paid from the inception to September 30, 2015.

It was also noted that the Public Administration Ministry paid total rent of $5.3 million over May 2012 to September 2015 for unoccupied premises on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain.

Rental was discontinued in April 2016. The report noted the situation contravened instructions to eliminate non-essential services and to use “public funds to the best advantage.”

The Gender Affairs Ministry also paid total rent of $514,146.60 over January 2015 to September 2015 for unoccupied premises at Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain. The rental is said to be ongoing.

Rent totalling $525, 718.33 was also paid for unoccupied premises on High Street, Siparia, over June 2014 to September 2015. Rental continued to December 2015, after which the agreement was discontinued due to lack of an elevator.

The Energy Ministry also paid total rent of $851,999 over December 2014 to September 2015 for unoccupied premises in La Romaine, reportedly waiting to be outfitted.

Auditor General Majeed Ali.

Auditor General Majeed Ali.

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