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Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh says an investigation has been launched into multi-million-dollar cost overruns at Couva West Secondary School. Gopeesingh, speaking with reporters during a tour of schools in the Naparima constituency on Wednesday, described the situation at Couva West, which has been under construction since 2007, as “untenable.” He said an investigation is now underway and he expected to have a report soon.
Gopeesingh added: “I inherited that from the last government. It has been under construction since 2007 and that school is supposed to cost about $180 million. It is like a mini-hotel.”
In 2007 Trinity Housing, a local company owned by Rahael Holdings Ltd, of San Juan, started work on the school under the People’s National Movement regime. The contractor was assigned to build eight secondary schools.
The minister said the school has been a challenge since he came into office. Work on it had stopped because the contractor had not been paid, he said, but when he assumed office, work had resumed. He said after negotiations with the contractor, “we seem to be back on track with the eight schools.” But he expressed concern over the mounting cost of the school, including its $30 million air conditioning system.
He added: “How can you be expecting to construct a school for $180 million and starting from 2007? One design consultant was the consultant for most of these schools.
“The air condition system is to the value of $30 million, $30 million for an air condition system. Where that come from?” Gopeesingh questioned the relationship between the design consultant and the project management consultant which was “in tandem with other people whom I will speak about subsequently and that is untenable.
“Why should we have to be spending $30 million on an air-conditioning system for a school and a school costing $180 million. This is what we have had to face,” the minister added.