Minister of Education Myron Walwyn has claimed that construction of a perimeter wall around Elmore Stoutt High School was of great urgency, adding that speed is what resulted in Government bypassing the tender process, which is usually utilized to promote fairness and transparency.
Walwyn also disclosed that, notwithstanding the ‘urgency’, the wall is incomplete, and Government has not allocated any money for it in this year’s budget.
So far, taxpayers have spent more than $251,000 on the wall, which the parliamentary opposition said was not urgently needed at this time.
The education minister, in the meantime, is also insisting that the project has conformed with local planning regulations, and with the Protocols for Effective Financial Management signed with the United Kingdom in 2012.
He noted that an “Appraisal/Business Case” is among three major requirements of the Protocols.
“The upgrade of the perimeter wall at the Elmore Stoutt High School was and still is, in terms of completion, a project of great urgency if the ministry is to provide protection for the school’s population.”
“Drawings and Bill of Quantities [in relation to the wall] were produced and underwent scrutiny from the Ministry of Finance. Madam Speaker, you would agree that this constitutes a formal appraisal process,” Walwyn further told the House of Assembly on Tuesday, June 13.
Another requirement, the minister noted, is the need for “Tendering and Procurement that seeks to ensure the highest levels of transparency and fairness”.
But he explained that, under the Public Finance Management Regulations, Cabinet can bypass the tender process that is usually required for projects valued at more than $100,000.
Walwyn added that, in relation to the wall, Cabinet waived the tender process due to the urgency of having the wall constructed.
“While it is not the standard practice of Cabinet to waive the tender process for the procurement of goods or services, based on the speed at which the project in this case have to be delivered, the Cabinet found it necessary to waive the tender process. Madam Speaker, you would note that provision is made for this in the Public Finance Management Act.”
The education minister then turned to the third applicable requirement under the Protocols. This requirement is for all contracts to be administered by persons who have the requisite technical background and experience to undertake a project.
“The services of SA Architect, whose principle has the requisite technical background and experience, has been employed to provide contract management for the [wall] project. Madam Speaker, you would note that this stage has also been satisfied,” Walwyn further said while he responded to questions posed in the House of Assembly by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie.
No money budgeted for completion
The education minister’s claim that construction of the wall was urgent is, however, countered by the fact that Government has not found it fit to allocate funds in this year’s budget to complete the project.
Walwyn, who himself later suggested that completion of the wall is not a priority at this time, did not say specifically how much more money is required.
He told the House: “The cost to finish the perimeter fencing including all soft and hard costs is estimated at $251,411.05. This cost does not include the monies for the construction of the entrances based on the new designs in accordance with the master plan. No provision was made to cover the remaining cost to finish construction of the perimeter wall at the Elmore Stoutt High School in the 2017 budget.”
“The funding in 2017 budget represents works to be carried out on the construction of the new classroom buildings at the Elmore Stoutt High School. The Ministry of Education and Culture’s emphasis is to complete the two classroom building currently under construction at the Elmore Stoutt High School. No monies were allocated for completing the remaining works on the perimeter wall at the Elmore Stoutt High School,” Walwyn further told the House.
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