By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH public schools opening in less than a week, Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell yesterday called for the Minnis administration and Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd in particular to "come clean" on the state of school repairs.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Mitchell predicted there will be "chaos" in schools on opening day, September 3, because the government did not mobilise most contractors to doing repairs until August 23.
Mr Mitchell called this an "unprecedented late start" caused by a "failure of organisation" and a "hands off approach" by the ministers of education and works.
"The government and the minister of education must come clean on what is happening with the opening of schools and their state of readiness," the statement said.
"We keep hearing as a party that things are not as the government says. That there will be chaos in the schools come opening day because the government did not mobilise many of the contractors to effect repairs until last Thursday, 23 August.
"This is an unprecedented late start. The record will reflect that in the five years under the PLP, repairs commenced in late June or early July. Repairs generally take six to eight weeks."
Mr Mitchell added it is "difficult to see" how these repairs can be completed before the first day of school.
Referring to the budget for school repairs, Mr Mitchell said "there was no year" when the PLP spent less than $10m on school repairs, steadily exceeding the $6m initially budgeted by the Ministry of Finance.
"This apparent mess is the result of the failure of organisation and the hands-off approach by the FNM ministers of education and works," the statement continues.
"Planning for the opening of schools should begin in March with the ministers of works and education meeting together with their technical teams to develop a clear organisational plan complete with timelines and deadlines. Clearly that did not happen this year."
Mr Mitchell also claimed that the PLP policy of principals having to sign off on the final two payments for school repairs to "ensure work was actually being done and to avoid corruption and collusion between contractors and Ministry of Works inspectors has been removed."
He added the PLP is "alarmed" that there was no scope of works done for Hugh Campbell High School in Freeport, which means no repairs may be done before school opens.
Mr Mitchell also said Eva Hilton Primary School may not open on time, which the Minnis administration admitted during a walkabout of public schools held on August 11.
At the time, Mr Lloyd said arrangements to accommodate these students have not been finalised, but it is expected they will be relocated to the Kendal Isaacs Gym.
Mr Mitchell said PLP Leader Philip "Brave" Davis has conducted his own investigations.
"When the contractors went to execute the scope of works, they found painters painting areas they were to repair and we now understand the Ministry of Works is deciding now whether to do repairs and come back and repaint or leave it as is," Mr Mitchell said.
"Contractors who were mobilised earlier in the month are waiting on second payment and some contractors have exhausted all funds and are unable to proceed further without payment," he also claimed.
Mr Lloyd could not be reached for comment up to press time.