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Government’s main skills training agency has built a teaching facility without the required planning permission.

A special audit of the bvtbweldingarbados Vocational Training Board requested by that organisation, has found no evidence its $260,000 automotive refinishing workshop in Sayes Court, Christ Church was constructed with the necessary approvals from the Town and Country Development Planning Office or Environmental Protection Department when work on it started in January 2010.

The Auditor General has frowned on this and raised concerns about the fact the facility was built for almost twice the originally budgeted price and other financial issues, including that a contractor was paid almost $40,000 to plaster the building, but it remains unflustered to this day.

Additionally, an assessment by a structural engineer also found major deficiencies in its construction. One of the major concerns raised by the Barbados Audit Office in the results of the probe was the absence of planning approval.

“Before constructing a building, permission must be obtained from the Town and Country Development Planning Office and the Environmental Protection Department. These departments are responsible for property development in Barbados. Plans and drawings approved by the Chief Town Planner, the head of TCDPO, provide a level of surety that planning regulations for Barbados are being compiled with,” the report noted.

“The BVTB could provide no evidence that planning permission had been obtained from the Town and Country Development Planning Office and the Environmental Protection Department to construct the Workshop. Work on the project started on 18 January, 2010 based on the floor plan prepared by the project administrator.

“This plan included washroom facilities but none were provided. This clearly was an oversight. As a result, instructors and trainees have to traverse a distance of over … 245 feet for restrooms,” it added.

One of the main reason the auditors were called in to investigate was concern about this “oversight”, and the one year period available between the time building the workshop was approved by the BVTB and when actual construction started.

“Correspondence on file indicates that as far back as January 2009 the board took the decision to construct the workshop, whereas the project commenced in January, 2010 — one year later. The BVTB therefore had sufficient time to plan all aspects of this project and have the building drawings approved by the relevant Government agencies,” the audit report stated.

As for the financial concerns, the Auditor General reported that while the project was $102,000 over budget at the time of the audit more than $13,483 was owed to three suppliers.

In light of these challenges, BVTB, which employs 160 and benefitted from $37.5 million in government funding between April 1, 2009 and the end of March last year, has been advised that its current system of project management “is in need of urgent review”.

Other recommendations from the Auditor General included: * Management should ensure that it selects persons with appropriate skills and experience to manage its building projects. * Artisans or firms with the experience and skill to perform quality construction work should be employed. * BVTB should acquire additional expert assistance for large or medium projects where the expertise is not available. * Approval should be sought from the Town and Country Development Planning Office and the Environmental Protection Department before the commencement of building activity. * BVTB should ensure that work has been satisfactorily completed before any payments are made. And while the “independent” engineering assessment “determined that the standard of construction of the building was poor in a number of areas”, the Auditor General concluded that “based on the expert assessment it would be a waste of funds to invest further in this project”. (SC)

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