New school costs defended by ministry

| 23/09/2013

(CNS): Although the cost of building and running the Clifton Hunter High School has been one of the biggest political footballs for more than five years, the deputy chief officer in the education ministry defended the project last week. Christen Suckoo said the jury may still be out on value for money but the school was a category five building that was already being widely used by the community, aside from being a state-of-the-art high school. Including legal costs, changes, repair work and the internal fit out, Suckoo said the final figure for Clifton Hunter was around $110 million. However, the annual running costs for the school compared well with the John Gray campus, despite having far more sophisticated facilities. 

Suckoo told the new Public Accounts Committee last week that lessons had been learned. He said there was no doubt that a proper business case for the schools should have been made and that, as government had been warned, the original pre-tender price given by Tom Jones International (TJI) of around $58 million was way too low, which was where the problems started.

The job had stalled for several months when the general contractor, sub-contractors and government all got into a legal battle after TJI walked off the site, and afterwards a considerable amount of repair work had to be done. This was then followed by design changes ordered by the education minister at the time, Rolston Anglin, who did not like the concept of mixed and open learning included in the original design. As a result, more walls were added inside the building to create traditional classrooms.

But despite the increase in the anticipated cost of the building, Suckoo said that the annual operating costs were around $2.6 million, including all contractual services. That compared very well to the more than $2.2 million it costs to run the old John Gray school site, which has no playing fields. He said the ministry was pleasantly surprised at the efficiencies in the building, which are keeping costs down.

Suckoo said several sporting events are taking place at the school and numerous requests have been made to use the fields, including one from the cricket association, which wants to use the pitch, given the problems at the Smith Road field. The deputy chief officer pointed to an international volleyball tournament held there recently and said the sporting facilities would help with sports tourism. He said the preforming arts centre was also in demand by the community.

He admitted that teachers had recently complained about the design as they had found there wasn’t enough shelf space, among other issues which were being addressed.

Suckoo also told the committee that the part-finished John Gray site was in a water-tight stage and preserved, awaiting a future construction re-start whenever the ministry is the given nod.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    oh yes…it was really worth bankrupting the country for along with losing our financial independence…….

    this school is a monument to economic mismanagement of the highest order under the last ppm administration…

    the only good news is that the uk gov will now not let the ppm do the same thing again….. every cloud has a silver lining….

  2. Anonymous says:

    Clifton Hunter school is the personification of excess and mismanagement of the new Premier and ppm. $110m to construct excludes annual maintenance costs. Shocking is the only way describe this epidsode in caymans history.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ummm… the costs of this school rose dramatically under the UDP govt.

      • SSM345 says:

        The cost of everything rose under the UDP, on numerous occasions.

        CI$81M in debt when the PPM  handed over the reigns in 2009 to the UDP. CI$650M+ in debt when the UDP handed back the reigns in 2013.

        Who was spending again?

    • Anonymous says:

      Anon 0712 the problem is we have to choose between the PPM and the prison (Sorry I mean the UDP).

  3. Truth says:

    Sure it cost twice as much and is half as good as Tom Jones could do it but at least it was done by Caymanian workers and now very rich Caymanian businesses with ties to Caymanian Government.  That was the point right?  Hopefully the education Caymanian kids will get there will make them smarter then this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Truth… Why would you be upset about Caymanian contractors, businesses and workers building this school… And benefiting? Would you rather they brought in an overseas contractor (like Ritz Carlton did) and buy all their materials overseas? If so, why?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Next time get Dart to do it.  

  5. Anonymous says:

    I would agree that a school of this caliber is needed in Cayman, and most would agree that building it was justified. But $110 million, good grief! Why is it that government always overplays for everything, and overplays by a lot. Then again, what government doesn't? 

    Even $2.5 million in annual operating expenses sounds way too high. Brand new buildings with new equipment should need minimal maintenance, and it can't cost that much to mow the lawn every few weeks. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    Show the public pictures of the CIHS site buildings which are still in use.

    That should stop ALL criticism of the new community centre/hurricane shelter/community pool/adult learning centre.

    Thanks for pointing out that it is not just a school.


    • Anonymous says:
      If the richest developer on island could build CIS for considerably less than the frank sound school what caused Minister McLaughlin and his team to arrogantly think they could project manage something of this scale without a qualified project management professional with oversight? 
      It was an expensive train wreck waiting to happen, experienced contractors told them that from day one. Ministry of Education should focus on providing quality educational programs and teachers not constructing schools. Where else in the world does a high school cost CI$110 million?
  7. Alan Roffey says:

    "and that, as government had been warned, the original pre-tender price given by Tom Jones International (TJI) of around $58 million was way too low, which was where the problems started.

    Is this really what CIG's leadership thinks after what we went through on those projects?

    The Auditor General investigated the tender process that led to the award to TJI and found little wrong with the result, so where does this "bid too low" hearsay come from? 

    My up close and personal recollection is that the first general contractor walked off the job when, inter alia, CIG's project management team failed to administer the contract properly, given the massive changes that were ordered right from the commencement of the job, and then CIG further compounded the situation by defaulting on payment of a Certificate.

    Those are the verifiable facts.

    I have significant respect for Mr. Suckoo, who in my opinion made the best of the "hospital pass" he was given when he became responsible for the mess that his predecessors had caused, but the spin in the first paragraph above tells me that lessons have not been learned, or if they have, then they must not be shown to have been learned to the public.

    I say we should let the Auditor General shed light on why the dispute erupted between CIG and TJI. Then truly some lessons might be learned.

    • Anonymous says:

      What do you mean by "hospital pass" Alan? I genuinely don't understand.

      • SSM345 says:

        11:29, A "hospital pass" is when you subject a recipient to a heavy hit that could be seen coming from a mile away.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thanks SSM345! Much appreciated. I understand the comment better now.


    • Anonymous says:

      Interests within interests…$58m to low? Isuspect Mr Dart could teach a thing or two about building quality at a good price.

  8. Anon says:

    "Compared well" is relative – what are the real numbers?  Perhaps The John Gray campus is very inefficient – older buildings and systems, etc.  that doesn't make Clifton Hunter acceptable or affordable.  $110 million just rolls off the tongue a little too easy  – I don't  think very many people realizes just how much money that is. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    The taps are made of gold and everyone gets a puppy.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I'm surprised it was only $110 million. I heard that when Big Mac and Rollie took control a directive was given to spare no expenses in making this the most expensive project ever. Afterall, the total blame for it was going to be laid at Alden's feet.

  11. Anonymously says:

    Next school give it to Dart to build.

  12. Knot S Smart says:

    I read in another publication that the grand hotel that Dart will build on Seven Mile Beach will cost $200 million.

    Govt's expenditure of $110 million to build the Clifton Hunter School is therefore excessive…


    • Anonymous says:

      Bet the 200 million does not include all the furniture and other inside "stuff" though.   Highly unlikely it would include the landscaping either.  I do believe that the price quoted for the school includes all the innards (for lack of a better word) and everything else.  By the time Dart's finished the hotel – inside and out, you can safely DOUBLE that 200 million mark. 

    • Bear Baiter says:

      Perhaps so, but if so it's an object lesson in the fact htat the cheapest (first) cost is seldom, if ever, the cheapest in the long run – i.e. the best value for money. I wish I could believe that the lesson will be learned from this debacle – but I can't!

    • Anonymous says:

      This comparison must give us pause.  So much for the civil servants who so glibly sold the country this bag of goods.  

      I am glad that they could salvage something from the wreck, but how we have wasted the islands' resources in these grand projects.

      we have failed to realize how fragile we are and how critical it is to be careful with the few dollars we have.

      i can just hear the CO under whose administration this white elephant was conceived: "It has never been done before, HE."  We'll that CO was right.  But hopefully it won't ever happen in the future.  

      Thankfully, that potential has been greatly minimized with more thoughtful and realistic people at the helm.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not sure I agree there.  Have you seen the artist's impression of Kimpton Hotel on SMB on Caycompass? Looks pretty hideous. At least the school looks smashing and is Cat 5 rated to boot!

      • SSM345 says:

        18:56, Have you seen any of DART's buildings?

        They are probably rated to Cat 10 and are the most solid structures in the Cayman Islands, apart from Miss Lassie's house of course.

        • Anonymous says:

          Do you really believe that nonsense? Cat 10? lol. I've seen all of them. Those structures at Camana Bay are far from the most solid structures in these Islands and I would not like to be caught there in the event of a hurricane.

    • Anonymous says:

      Apples and oranges.

      Will the Dart hotel be a community centre/public hurricane shelter????