$55 million was spent by taxpayers on a building meant to house the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to which the DPP refused to move in.
Now, the Prime Minister is calling for the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), which appoints the DPP, to account for the DPP’s refusal to occupy the Port of Spain building at any point during its three-year lease, which was terminated last month.
Speaking at the post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday, Dr Rowley said, the “JLSC ought to explain this to the country. The government provides money for executive offices. There were issues raised, the government addressed them. The long and short of the story is that money was wasted.
The Prime Minister said he was “incensed” as a taxpayer that a single public official, namely the DPP, could unilaterally decide not to move an entire department into a building, which was outfitted for special purposes to the tune of $55 million.
The building is located on the corner of Park and Henry Streets, which once housed a major commercial bank.
“I must say, I’m disappointed, hugely disappointed,” said Rowley.
“I think something has to be radically wrong where the Parliament, in enquiring about the performance of a certain government department, can be told over and over that the reason why he (DPP) can’t function is because you don’t have staff. And the reason they don’t have staff is because, ‘It have nowhere to put them.’
“And the government heard that, because the government was being accused of not providing the wherewithal for the department to function. But the government wants (it to) function and, of course, the government did the best it could do which was to find executive office.”
Rowley said so many alterations were made to the building that the landlord eventually ordered that no further renovations be made.
The lease was terminated last month without the DPP’s office ever occupying the building.
Rowley was asked whether the DPP’s view of the suitability of the office could have changed over time, to which he replied, “I have seen so-called reports from the Special Branch which give no justification for that waste. And I, as a public official, am exposed to matters of risk and personal security. I do not know what the threat is to that particular office…”
“That office was the executive headquarters of a bank so you could imagine the level of comfort that exists there.
“The government agreed to pay the high rental for that property. (A high level) executive office in Port of Spain is not cheap. We had to outfit it to suit the department,” said Rowley, adding that the government then invested further sums to outfit the office with adequate security measures, including bulletproof glass.
“We did all that and at the end of the day after we spent $55 million a public servant could decide, ‘I not going in there.’ Something has to be wrong with that. As a taxpayer, I’m incensed.”
He said while the costs were high, “the reason why we hired that building for that office is because we said, ‘if that is what it takes for the office to function, we will pay the price.’”
He warned about the potential for further wastage if a precedent was set by the DPP’s choice.