Government building still 35% empty

| 19/09/2013

(CNS): Government is still struggling to make the most out of its new office accommodation building (GOAB) as a result of the reluctance by some departments and agencies to move there and because of the costs involved in adapting the space to meet the needs of new public sector tenants. With an occupancy rate of around 65%, officials said the problems in filling the space are complex; in some cases the space is there as a result of downsizing of departments rather than the growth that had been anticipated when the building was first envisioned, but in others the space is not fit for purpose for newly proposed tenants. The issue was raised during Wednesday’s Public Accounts Committee meeting. 

Members asked Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Alan Jones, chief officer in the ministry with responsibility for the government office accommodation building, whether there had been any improvements in occupancy rates since the auditor general made his report on major public projects using the GOAB as one of his case studies. In that report Alastair Swarbrick had reported that the building was only 60% full.

While officials revealed there had been a marginal improvement to about 65%, Manderson described the issue of getting public authorities in there as ‘tough decisions’, which, he said, the government was continuing to make to have tenants come in. He said that the Department of Tourism was about to make the move but there were issues preventing the relocation of some government agencies, many of which remain scattered around in various commercial office buildings.

Alan Jones explained the problems with occupancy. He said that when the building was designed, chief officers were looking at future growth as it was important to build a building that would take into account potential staff numbers. However, in many cases the entities that had moved in are, in fact, smaller than had been expected due to cuts, so they now have excess space. But these are bits of space in department which are not big enough necessarily to accommodate a full public authority.

Around a quarter of the original tenants had pulled out, such as the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, which was advised by international regulators not to share accommodation with government as because of the need for independence. Jones explained that where this had happened, the space that had been designed was not necessarily appropriate for other entities. In order to move new public sector tenants into the building, which has already cut costs for those in there, there will need to be physical changes made.

He also noted that it was “all too easy” for public authorities to make a case for not moving into the building.

“Strong efforts are being made to bring in other entities but this is not helped with government's financial position, as changing fitted out space is expensive and money is tight,” he said, adding that it was still government’s intention to press ahead with getting the building fully occupied  as soon as possible.

During the PAC proceedings both Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and the UDP opposition MLA Capt Eugene Ebanks queried why, when he was the main critic of the empty space, the auditor general had his office in Anderson Square, triggering a number of direct criticisms of Swarbrick from Bush during the course of the meeting.

The auditor pointed out that, because the Office of the Auditor General had to be independent from government, it was not appropriate for his physical office to be in the central government location.

“It would be against best practice and the practices of independent audit for my office to be in the same building as the entities we audit,” he said, adding that nowhere in the developedworld would a public auditor share an office with the government. He said the possibility of his office sharing with the information commissioner and the complaints commissioner, who are also independent entities, to cut costs was being discussed. But he emphasised that the OAG could not share space with core government.

Bush disagreed and said his office was exactly the department to be pushed in a back office somewhere as the public didn’t need to visit, a point Swarbrick disagreed with. He said that quite to the contrary, members of the public do come and also report things to him — something that would be far less likely to happen if the office was in the GOAB at the heart of government.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Politics

About the Author ()

Comments (32)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

     Tourism Attractions Board(TAB) is still paying premium rent for office space at Crighton Properties in the Crighton Building on Crewe Rd. This rent must be at least three thousand CI$ per month, If not more, not to mention associated operational costs. Surely the Ministry of Tourism can mandate that smaller authorities such as the TAB, MUST move into the new CI Government Admin Building. CI$36000 minimum in savings per year is  definitely asubstantial savings to the government purse.

    • Anonymous says:

      But what about the poor influential capital rich elite families who run Cayman?  Have you thought about how this rule might affect them?

  2. Anonymous says:

    They put a huge commercial vault and all kindsof safes and other things in just for the Monetary Authority when they built the building. What a waste of money for the agency that takes care of the money! All that stuff is probably sitting in there not being used.

    • Anonymous says:

      That's not true.  I work in that building and keep my sandwiches in the safe until lunchtime (11-4)

      • Anonymous says:

        Never mind bobo, just keep eating them take out lunches and the building will soon be full.

    • Anonymous says:

      It can't be. they didn't do their research beforehand: turns out you can't have your monetary authority onsite! It must be housed separate and apart. So yes…it's a waste. Maybe a bank will just so happen to want to hold shop in the government building. hah.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For poster at 9-19-13 @ 10:54 The Sports Department is not located in the Queen's Court, for the past couple years they have been located in office space at the Truman BoddenSports Complex.

    For Poster 9-19-13 19:00 The Maritime Authority is no longer in Strathvale House, they have been in the new Govt Building since either late last year or early this year.

    • Anonymous says:

      The more pertinent question of course is whay does the Sports Department exist and what is it that they actually do?

      • Anonymous says:

        "…and what is it that they actually do?"  My guess would be they do the same as the petroleum inspectorate, the weather office, the protocol office, the hazard management office, the museum, the elections office…………………………………

    • Anonymous says:

      And on top of that 09/19/13: 19:00, you are lying about the rental rate for the Maritime Authority.  In fact, the total cost per square foot at the Government Administration Building is higher than the rate at Strathvale House.  The owners of the building should be able to sue you for slandering their business.

  4. anonymous says:

    Y are we paying Rent for Richard Smith and Mrs Scotland MOVE them to the Glass House. Lets save some Money People.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Maritime authority leases an entire floor at Strathvale House (even though it has never used all the space) at rent of $100 per square foot, when there’s so much space at GOAB.

    That’s Cayman.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is the MOST I've heard from Capt.E in the last 4 years…………….

    Great work if you can get it


  7. Anonymous says:

    On top of the cost of leases, think how many people are employed to deliver paper within govt offices. I work in a building occupied by a govt office and I am shocked how many mail deliveries they receive/send out by hand. These are cs employees wasting their time driving between govt offices to courier original docs.  I bet the wages of these delivery boys and girls are higher than the waste spent on third party leases.  I know they are cs employees because they Ll drive cig cars… Oh another waste there.



  8. Anonymous says:

    But yet cig is renting offices! Jokers!

  9. Anonymous says:

    absolute mumbo jumbo from everybody…..just like everything to do with the civil service

  10. Anonymous says:

    GOAB= bloated, expensive and inefficently run…..perfect for the civil service…..

  11. Anonymous says:

    Mr manderson is correct that tough decisions must be made.  It is unacceptable for CIMA and and any other Govt entities to be paying rent when a building designed to accomodate them is sitting almost half empty.  It is all good and well to say that international regulators 'advised' CIMA to remain where they are.  Put that on a wish list and get on with the practical decisions that must be made to ensure we all dont go broke. Those 'international regulators' are part of a broken system and thier own countries have broke and failed economies.  I heard what the cost of the Clifton Hunter school was today.  almost twice as much as it was expected to cost at around $110million.  Its no time to lay blame but we must do what we have to do if we hope to survive.

    • Anonymous says:

      10.56..don't be too hasty, the unoccupied part is probably the most efficient part of the CS..

  12. Anonymous says:

    What "tough decisions"? Plans should be made to move the majority of Government entities that are not currently in the new buildingTO the new building. This can be scheduled in accordance with the expiration of their current leases. What is the point of having the building if the Departments are'nt going to be there? Stop wasting our money paying exhorbitant commercial lease payments to third parties. Yes, some entities may not be able to move but "tough decisions" is a poor excuse for this occupancy rate; ISSUE THE DIRECTIVE and make sure the move happens. For example, The Passport Office currently across the street at Sussex, The Sports Department currently at Queen's Court, just to name a few, could easily be transitioned to the new building. Gitter dun!!

  13. pmilburn says:

    Its so amazing how some Govt departments basically refuse to move into the new Govt building for one reason or another.Surely staying in a rented place is much less cost effective than moving into a rent free govt office.Govt is paying those salaries SO whats the problem?The beat goes on.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The truth of the matter is some public authorities do not want to be in the Government Building because the senior managers do not want the close scrutiny of their comings and goings that such close proximity would enable. For example, long liquid lunch hours at the bar next door to one of them would prove impossible for the very thirsty head of that authority. Someone (Her Excellency? Deputy Governor?) needs to issue orders and ultimatums so that some discipline, fiscal and behavioural, can be imposed on these out of control authorities, most of whom run at a loss in any case.

  15. Hoping for better days says:

    35% WOW. And we still see people working at the old education department building…why is this? why not move everyone over?

    We are just a backward set of people. Stone-age mentality!


    • Anonymous says:

      Not only is the place not fully being utilized….they have more security there than tenants…oops look at who it is…..another government contract never tendered…

    • Anonymous says:

      Rental Income…which CS memeber ownes the building

      • Anonymous says:

        well said…. alot of sweetheart deals for many caymanian landlords around town….. and who would they get to move in after gov moved out????

        • Ching Ching says:

          You hit the nail on the head, and for how many years has this being going on with differentt parties

  16. Anonymous says:

    What a crock of sh&t from the Monetary Authority and the Auditor General. These agencies receive significant funding from Government otherwise they could not function. Yes they must be operationally independent which is a matter of policy and practice. Physical location is immaterial as long as there is operational independence. It must be noted that even if there is physical separation this does not guarantee operational independence if the independence policy is not respected and practiced by the Government and the Authority or Office concerned. So the Cabinet just needs to issue a directive to move the Monetary Authority into the GAB and the Governor's office needs to direct the Auditor General to do the same. End of story and money saved !!!

    • Anonymous says:

      They are funded from the fees that the financial sector pays, and as a result I beleive pay for the half of CIG, and immigration  which funds the other half.