By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Post Office's woes should be resolved by year-end, a Cabinet minister forecast yesterday, while admitting that the site for its proposed relocation requires renovations "above and beyond" what was expected.
Renward Wells, minister of transport and local government, who has now assumed responsibility for the Post Office, told Tribune Business: "The amount of renovations that is necessary for the Gladstone Road facility is above and beyond what we had initially thought.
"The Ministry of Works will be bringing forth a scope of works to address the entire building, and the Government of The Bahamas will make a decision as to what is going to take place."
The Government had acquired the former Phil's Food Services building from Bahamas Resolve, the Bank of the Bahamas bail-out vehicle, with the intention of retrofitting the propertty to accommodate the General Post Office, which has long been plagued with mould and a broken air conditioning system.
Bahamian businessmen have warned that the Post Office's woe continues to impact private sector cash flows and the smooth conduct of commerce, pointing to delays in clients receiving invoices/bills which were contributing to the build-up of accounts receivables.
Anthony Howorth, a well-known financial services provider, recently told Tribune Business that high net worth foreign clients and their intermediaries likely viewed The Bahamas as "a third world country" because their mailings and requests received no reply for three months.
And Edison Sumner, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) chief executive, disclosed that he knew of Bahamian businesses who had purchased Florida mail boxes and were travelling to the US on a weekly basis as a costly, time-consuming alternative to beating the postal shutdown.
Priscilla Hudson, a financial services worker, told Tribune Business: "We have not received any mail for my own post office box or my job, an offshore bank. I inquired about it because it was very unusual and concerning for a business, in particular, not to have one piece of mail posted. I also followed up because we have invoices due. I have been very cornered about this. There are people expecting very important mail to be delivered."
The former Christie administration entered into a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to construct a new Post Office at the Independence Drive Shopping Centre opposite the Town Centre Mall, but that project was placed on hold following traffic flow-related complaints from local residents and concerns over whether proper due diligence had been conducted.
"We are still going to be aggressive in ensuring that the operations of the Post Office take place," Mr Wells said yesterday. "Even if it's not there it would be some place else, and the issue will be dealt with very quickly. We have to be able to have the Post Office operating. It's important to the economy that that be done."
He added: "The General Post Office is still operating and we have moved all of its operations to satellite offices. We are not operating at maximum but we are operating. We were looking at the Gladstone Road facility to bring us up to our maximum peak in operations. We are still to do that and we will be able to address that very soon. By the end of the year we will have some resolution to the Post Office situation. That's my outside time frame."