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Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller on Tuesday (September 5) tabled the forensic audit report on the Sandals Whitehouse Project in the House of Representatives. She told Members that the government had already been “taking action to prevent a recurrence of any activities which may not have been undertaken in accordance with established government procurement laws”.
Mrs. Simpson Miller also informed the House that the report would be submitted to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament for further review.
On October 25, last year the House approved a resolution from the then Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson to appoint a team of professionals to undertake a forensic audit of the project, from inception to completion, and for these findings to be reported to the House.
The five-member team, chaired by Mr. Desmond Hayle was mandated to review: all contract documentation including the method of selection and contract provisions; the impact of external influences on project; the standard of the completed hotel compared with benchmarked hotels and hotel facilities; specific mechanical engineering standards; and project costs and final accounts. The team was also directed to review the performance of contracted parties and the quality of the final product, and value of the completed project.
Among the findings of the audit were: In respect of the agreements between the client and the contractors, consultants and sub-contractors, they contained adequate provisions for requisite services needed for the successful carrying out of the designing and constructing works for the 400-room hotel project; the total amount paid out for the negotiated professional services amounted to approximately six per cent of the projected construction budget of US$45 million, a very competitive sum compared to at least 12 per cent under normal market conditions; and that the hotel, has already had a positive economic impact on the Whitehouse and surrounding communities, as is evident in areas such as housing, job creation, improved skills training, and the creation or upgrading of support industries such as: agriculture, restaurants, hardware stores, financial institutions, motor sales and service, and increased real estate development.
Additionally, the document said, “the hotel development has resulted in the improvement of infrastructure in the area, including utility services, communication facilities, and transportation”.
In reviewing the specific mechanical and engineering standard, the report concluded that in general, the standard of the engineering systems at Sandals Whitehouse were acceptable and met international and local standards.
“The electrical and mechanical systems installed at Sandals Whitehouse are of a high quality and are generally more sophisticated, efficient, reliable and high tech than those in the other hotels visited by the audit team,” the Report stated.
On the matter of benchmarking, the audit team said that they were of the view that the consultant quantity surveyor did in fact use Beaches Negril as a benchmark in arriving at an initial project budget for the Sandals Whitehouse Hotel.
However, the team said, in comparing the three hotels Beaches Negril and the French Village at Beaches Turks and Caicos, “it is the opinion of the forensic audit team that Sandals Whitehouse far surpasses the other two in overall design, detailing and standards of specifications”. The report further described the hotel as an upscale, four-star facility.