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Ghost of Sandals Whitehouse back to haunt Vin Lawrence

Thursday, May 08, 2014    

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KARL Samuda was adamant yesterday that Dr Vin Lawrence is the wrong man to head up the new enterprise committee mandated by Cabinet to oversee a re-start of the 381-megawatt energy project, after revoking Energy World International's licence.

"We do not support the appointment of Dr Vin Lawrence, simply because of the scathing report from the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) on his performance in the Sandals Whitehouse hotel debacle," declared Samuda, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesman on industry, investment, commerce, mining, and energy.

Samuda said taxpayers lost US$43 million in cost overruns on the hotel while Lawrence was chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) which was responsible for building the hotel and which contracted Nevalco Consultants, owned by Alston Stewart, to be project manager.

The hotel was planned for a 2003 opening, but did so almost two years later, with several defects that caused joint venture partner Gorstew — which had used its Sandals brand to operate the hotel on a 20-year lease — to suffer brand damage and spend money for which it had not budgeted, in order to deliver the promised five-star hotel.

The joint venture, called Ackendown Newtown Development Limited, also involved the National Investment Bank of Jamaica.

"To appoint Dr Lawrence flies in the face of the OCG report in 2006 which was damning about the UDC which he led in the Whitehouse matter. The OCG has also criticised the bid process for the 381-megawatt project. This appointment is fraught with danger, controversy and inconsistency," said Samuda.

"If we are using the OCG's report as the basis for criticising Minister Phillip Paulwell's performance, how are we going to use a man who was criticised by the OCG in the past to manage the energy process?" the JLP spokesman asked. "We can't support that."

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