Archive for March 13th, 2012

Schools’ bill rises to $197M

| 13/03/2012 | 117 Comments

clifton hunter (239x300).jpg(CNS): The minister for education told Finance Committee on Tuesday that the final bill to finish both of the high schools would eventually total around $197 milllion. Appearing before his legislative colleagues to ask for an increase in cash for his ministry for thisfinancial year, Rolston Anglin revealed that the final cost to the public purse for Clifton Hunter would be over $99.5 million, while the total for John Grey, which will not be finished until next year, would be $97.4 million. Most of this expenditure has occurred during his tenure and means the schools are now double the cost of the original contract signed by the previous minister. The PPM had signed a contract with Tom Jones International (TJI) to do both schools for just over $114 million.

Answering questions regarding the need to increase his ministry's budget by some $16 million, he said that when he took up the post of minister in May 2009, only $50 million had been spent in total across both school project sites. Currently the costs for Clifton Hunter alone have surpassed $87 million and the bill so far for John Grey, where the work has been considerably reduced in order to phase its development, stands at around $54 million.

TJI, the original general contractor, walked off the job in November 2009 as a result of a dispute with government over payments and the projects were then stalled for almost a year before a new general contractor was employed.

The minister acknowledged that the school costs have now ballooned from the original contract costs of around $58 million for John Grey and some $56 million for Clifton Hunter as he said that the original contract with TJI was only for construction costs and not for architect and consultancy fees or fixtures and fittings, all of which still had to be paid for.

Anglin claimed that he found no plans in place for raising revenue to pay for the schools. “The projects were always going to be completed through massive borrowings,” the minister told the committee.

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, who was education minister when TJI was contracted to build the schools, said that when the audits were finally done, the country would come to see what had really happened to result in the “significantly inflated final costs” when compared to the original contract, and he asked what had caused the inflation.

Anglin admitted that the current growing bill included design changes that had been incurred since TJI walked off the project and under the new contractor and as a result of his policies. However, he said, a lot of the additional costs were accounted for as a result of shoddy work by that original contractor.

He said that only $4 million had been given as a bond on each school, which wasn't enough for government to be able to claim compensation for the work that was being re-done. As “the company doesn't appear to have money, there is no point in government trying to sue for costs,” Anglin said about the poor work. He stated that the repairs had been done but everything that was wrong had been documented and the ministry had a full record of the poor standard of work.

He said that some of the change orders which formed part of the dispute between government and TJI, to the tune of $17 million, had been paid but others remained in dispute.

Anglin said there had been “many problems” regarding the original general contractor and the dispute but TJI and government would be taking part in an arbitration hearing some time this summer in an effort to deal with the main issue, which was still the original claim by Tom Jones that the Cayman government had not paid cleared invoices, a position the minister said was disputed. He explained that the core of the law suit had always been over the certified payments and the reasons why the contractor walked off the job. TJI has never claimed any damages regarding loss of earnings or profit after losing the contract, Anglin told the committee.

Following the discussions among committee members, the committee approved, among other appropriations, $14.5 million in transfer payments to the ministry, most of which, Anglin said, would be spent on the schools this financialyear. Despite the financial difficulties of government, the minister said he was pressing ahead to ensure that the Clifton Hunter campus was completed by this summer and that the students would be in the school for the start of the next academic year. He also stated that the hurricane shelter at the site would be in use for this season.

The minister further revealed that the renovations and enhancements to several of the country's primary schools and an additional building at Cayman Brac's high School had cost just over $11 million.

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Red meat is blamed for one in 10 early deaths

| 13/03/2012 | 0 Comments

beef.jpg(The Telegraph): The Department of Health was last night urged to review its guidance on red meat after a study found that eating almost half the daily recommended amount can significantly increase the risk of dying early from cancer and heart disease. Small quantities of processed meat such as bacon, sausages or salami can increase the likelihood of dying early by a fifth, researchers from Harvard School of Medicine found. Eating steak increases the risk of early death by 12%. The study found that cutting the amount of red meat in peoples’ diets to 1.5 ounces (42 grams) a day, equivalent to one large steak a week, could prevent almost one in 10 early deaths in men and one in 13 in women.

The scientists said that the government’s current advice that people should eat no more than 2.5 ounces (70 grams) a day, around the level the average Briton already consumes, was “generous”.

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