DESPITE a lease agreement being drawn up for the Ministry of Education to utilise a building owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and two years of occupation, church officials had not been paid any rent or received any money.
The agreement with the former administration had also not been signed.
This was noted in a press release issued by the Ministry of Education yesterday, detailing a meeting Sunday between Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd, Pastors Paul Scavella, Peter Joseph and C Melvin Lewis of the South Bahamas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
The meeting was held to discuss issues arising from the ongoing refurbishment of the Bahamas Academy school site on Wulff Road and Mr Lloyd’s contribution to the budget debate, where he raised the matter as a point of concern.
“It was noted that despite the fact that a lease agreement had been drawn up, the same had not been signed by the ministry after more than two years of occupation, renovation, and construction on the site by the ministry,” the Ministry of Education’s statement noted.
“Further, the church had not been paid any rent or received any other monies nor was it in any manner involved with any financial transactions relating to the ministry’s occupation, renovation, and construction. Pastor Scavella stated that the Seventh-day Adventist Church had only tried in good faith, having been approached by the Ministry of Education, to assist in providing an identified venue to address the specific needs of the Ministry of Education.
“He further said that when it became apparent that the agreed scope of work was being extended without consultation by the ministry, he had intervened to stop further work until the matters were regularised. The minister thanked the clergymen for their obvious sincerity and efforts and noted that without the outstanding contributions of the Adventist Church and other Christian denominations to education, through its denominational schools which they have founded, the government would face an almost insurmountable task in guaranteeing universal access to education.”
Earlier this month, it was reported that Mr Lloyd told the House of Assembly that the Christie administration invested some $30m in school properties the government does not own and may “probably never own”.
He said $25.7m of that “involves a premises which previously housed the Seventh-day Adventist Bahamas Academy on Wulff Road.”
“About three years ago, the previous government entered into an agreement with the Seventh-day Adventists for the possible lease of the land to relocate BTVI,” Mr Lloyd said. “The proposed cost of such an act was pegged at $1m. Over time, things changed and the costs ballooned to $8m, scrapping the idea of a BTVI relocation and other ideas emerging. At this moment, the government is under contract for $25.7m, with an agreement to lease the said property for five years at a cost of $60,000 per annum. This is a significant sore point. We must ask the question, who would have driven the decision making in that process?”
Mr Lloyd said at the time that he is seeking permission from the government to have a “forensic, engineering and construction audit” take place for projects in his ministry to ensure Bahamians are getting value for their money.
Pastor Leonard Johnson, head of the regional office for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, could not attend Sunday’s meeting because of church business overseas.