Thursday, January 18, 2018

Govt to spend $1.5b on Campus Building

 Government will spend $1.5 billion over the next 15 months for the completion of the Campus Building in Port of Spain.

This would enable it to house the Ministry of Legal Affairs, along with the Inland Revenue and Customs departments, stated Finance Minister Larry Howai at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference.

He said work would be done on a phased basis for the different aspects of the Campus Building. 

Howai said work on the Customs building had already started and it would be ready for occupation in the last quarter of this year. Between now and December next year, there would be a phased “moving in” of the different Government offices, he said.

Howai said he was presenting this information in the light of OSH (occupational safety and health) problems which exist at several ministries, mainly the Immigration Office on Frederick Street, which has been shut down by Public Services Association president Watson Duke, who labelled it a “sick building”.

Duke said he had closed about 20 buildings, in which 5,000 employees work, as a means of pressuring Government to address health and safety concerns.

“We expect to have the OSH problems regularised in the Board of Inland Revenue and the Immigration Department,” Howai said.

With respect to the Immigration Department, he said,“The Minister of National Security has made arrangements to ensure compliance with all of the OSH requirements.”

He said the officers at Immigation would work from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day until all the compliance work is done. 

Howai noted that Inland Revenue had 20 departments and 1,200 staff members throughout Trinidad and Tobago. He said work would be done on these various buildings.

Work on the Treasury Building should be completed within the next two weeks, while work on Trinidad House is expected to be finished by the first week of June, the Minister stated. 

“We want to ensure that customers of the Inland Revenue Division are least inconvenienced and one of the ways to ensure this is to enhance the ability to interact online...We have started the process of upgrading our information technology system and infrastructure. At the Board of Inland Revenue we would be spending another $15 million over the next few months for upgrades, particularly as they relate to security of taxpayer information,” he said.

“We are hoping that would obviate the need for citizens to have to come to the Inland Revenue Division,” he added.

Howai said he had discussions with the National Insurance Board with a view to upgrading its offices, “particularly because people who access NIB offices are in special circumstances--you may be pregnant, ill, old...and are in need of more support than the normal citizen”.                   —Ria Taitt