Additional information provided by the Cabinet Office this month on the cost of rent/lease paid by the Government annually has confirmed that the figure is approximately the $2-billion originally estimated by the Jamaica Observer, and includes over $500 million in maintenance and parking costs.
The new submission from the Cabinet Office, dated January 9, to Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), also lists payments for premises used by the country's overseas missions in the various foreign currencies.
Chairman of the PAAC, Edmund Bartlett, who was off the island last week, said yesterday that he has not yet seen the submission, but expects to have the Cabinet Office reappear before the PAAC to answer questions on the latest submission.
The updated 'Space Rationalisation' summary, which became necessary after the PAAC demanded more information on the rental costs shown in the original document submitted on December 5, 2012, shows that the Government is spending approximately $1 billion for premises rented from private sources and $475.5 million for those rented from Government entities.
The total annual rent is close to $934 million but, in addition, it pays $450 million for the maintenance of premises and $70.5 million for parking spaces, making a total of approximately $1.5 billion for rent paid in Jamaica. Additionally, there are costs quoted in foreign exchange for premises rented overseas for foreign missions, which are affected by rising costs due to the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar since the start of the year.
For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is spending just over US$2 million to accommodate staff at the Jamaican consulate-general and its permanent mission to the United Nations, both of which are located on Third Avenue in New York City. The consulate and chancery for the consul general cost US$1.1 million, while the accommodation for the UN mission costs just under US$1 million.
It costs US$96,000 for accommodations in Brasilia; US$92,000 for accommodations in Caracas; N20 million in Abuja, Nigeria; one million yen in Tokyo; CAD$175,000 in Toronto and Ottawa; US$77,000 in Miami; US$110,000 for those in Mexico City; euro90,000 in Brussels; 340,000 Swiss francs (CHF) for accommodating the mission to the UN in Switzerland; R186,000 in Pretoria; US$55,466 (to which the Kuwaiti Government contributes 15,600 Kuwaiti dinars) in Kuwait; euro92,000 in Berlin; and US$8,000 in Cuba.
There was no information about missions in the People's Republic of China, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, UNESCO in France, or whether consulates in Belize, Colombia, Dominican Republic and The Philippines were on the budget.
The Office of the Prime Minister said in December that it is seeking to consolidate its offices islandwide to achieve greater efficiency and shave the cost of skyrocketing rental costs. CEO of the Public Sector Transformation Unit, Patricia Sinclair-McCalla, said the idea is to consolidate Government offices at the parish level into government centres akin to one-stop shops for conducting business.
In December, the Cabinet Office submitted information on 14 ministries, departments and agencies which had spent $1.1 billion since April on office space, and $532 million for maintenance and parking spaces. However, that submission did not include four major ministries: Agriculture and Fisheries, Labour and Social Security, Education, and Health. This led to the PAAC demanding information on the excluded entities.