The deplorable state of government buildings
Published: Sep 24, 2013
Uriah McPhee and Stephen Dillet primary schools are only the latest government buildings to make headlines due to poor interior conditions. Disruptions to the school year are not acceptable, particularly when the maintenance on these buildings was readily identifiable and should have been performed over the summer period. These schools exemplify the continued deterioration of government buildings and the ridiculous delays in occupying recently constructed buildings due to poor construction.
Most glaring is the new ministerial complex on John F. Kennedy Drive, which in 2010 the National Insurance Board pegged at a value of $26 million. The new modern building is a striking contrast to the antiquated concrete ‘Y’ design of the neighboring Ministry of Works and BTC headquarters. Yet, it remains unoccupied after nearly 10 years since its initiation in 2004. The blame game has traversed three governments, and Bahamian taxpayers continue to pay for renovations.
Once slated for the Ministry of Tourism, the Office of the Attorney General is considering the move to JFK due to structural issues at the General Post Office on East Hill Street. Such a move eludes common sense, as the courts and registries are located downtown and would necessitate a commute of 10 minutes to 15 minutes without traffic. But it stems from structural problems at the General Post Office, culminating in February when it is was alleged that a concrete slab fell, nearly hitting an employee.
Air conditioning problems were noted not only at the General Post Office but also post office locations in Elizabeth Estates, South Beach and Grants Town. Subsequently, in August, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin acknowledged that employees are working fewer hours as a result. Rightly, employees are not expected to work in conditions deemed to have health and safety issues; but taxpayers expect such issues to be resolved before a loss of productivity occurs.
Productivity was also lost last week when court was canceled in all but one of the courts in the recently built Magistrates Court Complex. A leaky roof caused excess water intrusion and, not surprisingly, generated conditions ripe for mold growth. A similar scenario occurred at the Office of the Prime Minister back in March when mold and asbestos fears required the consulting cost of a Canadian firm.
The Bahamian taxpayer once again pays for poor construction and loss of work further contributing to the already poor state of government productivity. There must be some accountability on contractors to deliver ready-to-occupy and predominately problem-free new commercial buildings. There must also be renewed attention to maintenance. Air conditioning systems must have regular servicing, small leaks repaired immediately, and general building cleanliness ensured.
The Government of The Bahamas is the largest employer in the country. Yet, its old and deteriorating offices and problem-laden new construction do little to incentivize a productive workforce or a future generation. The renovation and expansion of Princess Margaret Hospital was well overdue, but there are countless others that need renewed attention.