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Ministry delay

Move by foreign affairs to new building in downtown Kingston now set for March 2020

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has finally taken control of its planned new headquarters on Port Royal Street in downtown Kingston, but it is unlikely to move in any time soon.

The building was officially handed over yesterday to the foreign affairs ministry by the Chinese authorities, paving the way for Government to begin to acquire the furniture and fixtures to facilitate the staff to move in which is now set for March 2020.

The Chinese Government had provided a grant of $3.3 billion towards the construction of the multistorey building by Jiangsu Jiangdu Construction Group Company Ltd, at a projected cost of just under $4 billion.

Work on the building was initially scheduled to be completed by the end of last year, saving the Government millions of dollars it now pays for rented space in New Kingston.

But during the examination of the 2019-2020 Estimates of Expenditure in March Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith moved the date for the occupation of the building to June.

Responding to questions from the Jamaica Observer about why the June target was missed, the ministry yesterday said it is now expected that the building should be furnished and fully functional by the end of the first quarter of next year.

According to the foreign affairs ministry, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC), which has oversight responsibility for the project, has indicated that the delay was partially caused by issues relating to the supply of furniture for the building.

“MEGJC advised that the package for the furniture for the building had to be retendered because the first set of bidders did not meet the criteria outlined in the tender package,” said the foreign affairs ministry.

“In response to the second advertisement, a second set of bids was returned on October 8, 2019 and the tender evaluation process has begun. It is estimated that the evaluation and approval processes (through the Procurement Committee, the Sector Committee, the National Contracts Commission and the Cabinet of Jamaica) will take about two months.

“Thereafter, the successful bidder will require about two or three months to source and install the furniture. As such, current projections are that the building should be furnished and fully functional by the end of March 2020,” added the ministry as it dismissed reports that security concerns also contributed to the delay.

“None of the government agencies involved in the project is aware of any security concerns that would prevent the ministry from moving into the building. In the past, a few persons, including members of staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, have enquired about the general safety of the downtown Kingston area.

“The response has been to indicate that several major public and private sector entities (such as the Bank of Jamaica, the International Seabed Authority, the Jamaica Stock Exchange, the GraceKennedy Group and Digicel) have been located in the downtown area for many years and there have been no significant security concerns,” said the ministry.

It noted that at some point questions were also raised about the security of the electric wiring of the building but the ministry said these were related to differences between the Chinese electrical wiring codes and the Jamaican codes.

“Since then, the appropriate government electrical inspection has been undertaken and the concerns have been addressed,” added the foreign affairs ministry.

Yesterday, the handing-over certificate for the building was signed by Johnson Smith on behalf of the Government of Jamaica and Tian Qi, ambassador of the People's Republic of China, on behalf of the Chinese Government.

The handing-over ceremony was witnessed by representatives of the ministries, departments and agencies directly involved in specific phases of development of the project, as well as representatives of the Chinese embassy.

The construction company also presented a large symbolic key to the building, as a special memento to mark the occasion.


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