Schools Projects

| 10/06/2010

The multiple new and highly extravagant schools were clearly embarked upon without any concern for costs. Those responsible were obviously much more interested with enshrining their own legacy in concrete and steel. They were also guilty of rushing to get them all built at the same time and entering into legally binding construction contracts that were less than satisfactory. True, it’s a crying shame but it is not the purpose of this viewpoint.

The new minister of education inherited this difficult situation and the subsequent issues with the contractor leaving the job have added further complications. The latter situation, however, does have its up-side. With that I mean there is now surely the opportunity to revise as much of the finishing specifications as possible to reduce unnecessary costs. Listening to people in the know, it is absolutely mind boggling to hear the gold plating excesses that were part of the approved design.

What is also particularly concerning at this time are the issues surrounding the award of the contract to get the schools moving again towards completion. The new minister may have erred when he made unnecessary public comments on talk radio that suggested he would be surprised if the local coalition of contractors could not provide a good bid. Comments like this could potentially send the wrong message, especially in advance of the bidding process having being completed.

Then news breaks that an overseas firm has been selected and their bid was millions below the coalition group. There is some public outrage. Following this we hear the contract has not been awarded because of issues with the criteria used in the selection process and that there are ongoing discussions between the ministry of education and the central tendering agency. The premier in response to questions, also states that he wants the best deal for government regardless of whether the firm is from West Bay or the moon.

What we have now is a lot of speculation as to the machinations going on behind closed doors. Firms spend a considerable amount of time, resources and funds to prepare bids for such an extensive and complicated project like this and they deserve better. And the public do as well.

Government now has a vast amount of technical and professional data submitted from the various bidders as to costs, timelines and approach to the work. We hope that this individual proprietary information is not being used inappropriately in relation to the ongoing selection process. Should government now decide to do the project management themselves, after they have had the benefit of seeing the technical and financial submissions of the various bidders, this would also be highly unethical and could no doubt be subject to legal challenge.

Where is the new auditor general?
 

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Comments (18)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand how we could ever spend "too much money" on our children’s education. I for one think that it is high time the children on Cayman have the BEST education money can buy. Have you seen what other educational institutional facilities are like overseas? When you walk into their labs they have the latest technology and advancements. What is wrong with our children in Cayman having it too? Everyone is complaining that this govt. party did this and the other one did that. The tit for tat has got to stop. We need to focus on the future of our youth and how to make sure they receive the BEST education money can buy in the BEST facilities. A good facility will attract higher quality teachers that can educate our children. Stop talking about how much it costs and just re-route the money into it to get it completed. This is not just a school but a storm shelter as well. Of course it needs to be built well and should have the BEST of everything in it…. Nuff said.

  2. Forelock says:

    The poster at 6/18 8:51 may have hit upon the underlying problem when he/she wrote "These schools are not free.  You just dont pay school fees.  You pay for them in other ways thats all."

    The old adage "No one appreciates the value of what they get for free" might be our overall problem with education and crime.

    If school wasn’t free maybe parents would be more interested in a positive outcome for their financial investment in their kids’s school time.

    If parents were more connected to their kids school progress maybe more kids would grow up straight instead of turning into "gangsta" and ting.

    why not charge fees for attendance at the new schools, even if at rate far less than actual cost, and use means testing to help those who genuinely can’t afford to pay. 

    As the poster says, we have to live within our means and if we are committed to a better future we must invest in our children, personally.

  3. Lachlan MacTavish says:

     Here we go again. Instead of letting the "local qualified decades of experience Contractors" finish off the schools properly and keep the money in the country lets pass the contract overseas to a "low ball don’t know how to work in Cayman" company and have the whole thing unravel again. Sign the contracts locally and finish the thing off.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lach honey,

      Only two so called local companies bid on the schools last time round.

      One of them submitted bids that were "out of the ball park" and the other wanted unreasonable conditions as part of the contract which in the end resulted no contract award.

      If we want value for money we need outsiders to keep the local boys straight.

      Fluor Daniel’s performed well at Camana Bay and Tom Jones did a fine job on the Beachcomber and Beach Club condos on seven mile beach. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    It shows ya whilst everyone is crying down UDP, the same ones crying will put back into power, the party (PPM) that started this simultaneous project!

    PPM and UDP – this is party politics, and I feel it is going to ruin Cayman, because once a party takes the House, the leaders of the party tend to control everyone else like puppets. There is no careful deliberation, debates and weighing of cases before making decisions upon the Caymanian people and the environment. 

    Moreover, party politics is causing division in this country. We had people voted for a new Constitution, didn’t know what was in it, but voted anyways because one party was  for it!

    Just dumb! 

    • Anonymous says:

      The only party that has a dictator is the UDP. No one could ever cast Kurt Tibbetts in the role of dictator and you know it.   

      People obviously did not vote for the Consitution on the basis of party since the party that proposed it lost the election and the party whose leader opposed it won. The Constitution was widely discussed, debated and written about. The Constitutional Secretariat held many, many meetings to educate the public. There was no good reason for people not to know what was in it, and if the reason was apathy then that reason would persist whatever the govt. did.      

      • Anonymous says:

        "The Constitution was widely discussed, debated and written about."

        Agreed but WHO KNEW ITS IMPLICATIONS and their closed door meetings???

    • Anonymous says:

      All i know is that something strange is going on with this.  There has been too many offhand public comments and the length of time it is taking to award a contract makes it look as though some kind of deal is being cooked up.

  5. Anon says:

    What we should continue to question is why it was necessary to even attempt to tackle multiple high schools simultaneously? Why had none of the glaringly obvious requirements been tackled in the previous 30 years? Had anyone paid attention to the information provided by various early studies and obvious population growth, and done what was expected maybe only one additional school/community centre/hurrican shelter would have been required. Maybe none, simply expanding what would have already been in place and completed when there was always "surplus budgets".

    • Anonymous says:

      "What we should continue to question is why it was necessary to even attempt to tackle multiple high schools simultaneously?"

      Perhaps Kurt Tibbetts and Alden Mclaughlin (PPM) could provide an answer to your question. It was under their tenure that Operational expenditures spiraled out of hand – nah true?

  6. PaperCaymanian says:

    The scariest part of this article is suggesting that govt. manages the project. Truley frightening idea.

  7. Anonymous says:

    While I agree that there probably could have been some cost savings, I think in our rush to criticise "gold plating excesses" we miss the bigger picture. The educational reform embarked upon by the previous Minister was comprehensive and for the betterment of our children. It was not about building schools as monuments to himself, as people so often criticise.

    The new legislation, added year of school, vocational programmes, etc were all a part of that reform, but the buildings are still very important. I went to John Gray, and it is deplorable that we have allowed the buildings to continue deteriorating over the years, being forced to take in more and more students as our population grows with little concern for the learning environment.

    Yes, teachers are very important, and parenting is even more important. But I am a firm believer that the environment in which children learn makes a difference. I applaud the previous Government for embarking on a capital project with important goals, even if "excesses" came in along the way and an unforeseen economic recession threw a wrench in everything.

    Yes, the capital projects were pushed forward even after we knew what the economic reality was, but was there any other choice? At least the money was spent on the future, on our children. Can we say the same about all other government projects?

    • Dwindling Hope says:

      No we cannot and I absolutely agree with what you’ve said. Whilst the simultaneous projects may have been ambitious,  the state of John Gray and George Hicks are (to say the least) deplorable and  consistently deteriorating. These facilities are significantly dated and the little fixes and make shift additions which have taken place through the decades are no longer feasible.

      It is dis-heartening having to send your child off to a school where a heavy rain and saturated grounds means seapage (of God knows what) coming through the class room floors. We are a first world country for God’s sake. Why should our children be submitted to these substandard facilities. The new schools are a blessing for those of us who haven’t the financial income to afford private schools, but still value education and want to send our children to modern academic facilities that are safe and structurally and environmentally sound.

      Our governments (past and present) have wasted (and continue to waste) money on unnecessary endeavors which do not benefit Caymanians- these facilities will benefit Caymanians and the communities as a whole. I look forward to their completion  as should any person who has a child which will be completing secondary education here.

      • Anonymous says:

        What you seem to convenmiently forget is that we have to "live within our means".  The money Govt now has to raise by taxing us all (gas and diesel fuel duty hikes etc more borrowing and debt etc) so you can send your kids to these extravagant "free" schools is outrageous.

        These schools are not free.  You just dont pay school fees.  You pay for them in other ways thats all.

  8. just sayen says:

    Hope away but all evidence points to the government ALWAYS doing things inappropriately and yes they will happily screw over the good guys both expat and Caymanian to make sure they and theirs get as much of the money as possible with the timely and cost effective job completion coming in a distant 2nd.  It has been proven time and time again that this is what you get when you deal with the Cayman government.

    • Anonymous says:

      When the individual jigsaw pieces were put together, the final picture was not what was expected. Someone had not picked up the right box of jigsaw puzzle or maybe the manufacturer had placed the wrong picture label on the outside.

      No worries,  we will just open a new box, and have someone make the sure the jigsaw pieces inside match the photo on the outside.

      Wallah!!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good article showing appropriate concerns regarding ethics as well as waste.

    Machinations is a particularly good choice of word – see recent Viewpoint. I am not suggesting that what is going is humerous. Rather, as the author of that article pointed out, there is a clear need for all of us to question what goes on behind the closed doors of government. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Why should it ever be "behind closed doors"?  This is a small community yet there are still concerns about the particulars of government expenditures.

      Elsewhere – the community is given a choice during elections to decide on some capital projects. Why not do something similar here? It is small enough (the local electorate) that this should be easily accomplished.

      I’m not talking about nit-picky items but any new projects totaling over $?? should be vetted by the community. At least people’s voices can be heard and it removes the "pet projects" that seem to be what politicians really care about.

      Something similar has already been proposed in regards to gambling, so the precedent has been set. Just do it every April so its in time for the budget.