Friday, February 23, 2018

Jwala refuses ‘official residence’

‘Renovation cost $300,000 and not $3m’


vacant house: The official residence of the Central Bank Governor at Federation Park, which is currently unoccupied. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran has declined the use of his “official residence” at Federation Park.  

Rambarran told the Sunday Express yesterday he has chosen to remain at his Springvale, Valsayn, home in East Trinidad, even after extensive renovations were carried out on the Federation Park residence.

He denied the renovation cost was $3 million, putting it instead at $300,000.  

Rambarran is currently attending meetings with the International Monetary fund (IMF) in Washington, DC, United States.

In a telephone interview with the Sunday Express, he denied reports that the Central Bank had funded renovations to his private residence, and had spent $3 million to renovate the Federation Park home which includes chandeliers, new gates and “other accessories” as referred to by a source. 

The Federation Park residence was been home to several previous Central Bank Governors, including current Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran when he held that office and Rambarran’s predecessor, Ewart Williams. 

Sources said Rambarran’s decision not to live in Federation Park brought an end to a 50-year tradition in which all past governors stayed at the residence but Rambarran dispelled this notion, saying the real official residence was actually at Ellerslie Park.

“I have made the choice to stay at my private residence after consulting with the board. The official residence at Ellerslie Park is just empty lands, there is no building,” he said, explaining that the Federation Park building was really for the deputy governor, who he explained was someone who was on the executive of the Bank, or the Inspector of Institutions. 

“In people’s minds, Fed Park is the residence but it is really a very old residence dating back to 1970. When I assumed office I indicated to the board that my children’s lives were centred around the East/West Corridor. They go to school there and all their extra curricular activities are centred there. 

I told them I would prefer to stay at my home. There is nothing in my terms and conditions which state that I must go to an official residence,” he explained. 

He said with the board’s encouragement, he did give it a try. To make it habitable, Rambarran said, the residence needed to be “refurbished”.

“I don’t know where you got that $3 million cost from. That is totally wrong. I insisted that the budget should not exceed $300,000. I was adamant about this.”

He said after two school terms he realised the new arrangement wasn’t working out for his children, even though “they never complained”.

“I went back to the board and they agreed that I should go back to my private residence,” he said, adding that the Federation Park home has since been offered to the Inspector of Financial Institutions for his use. 

He said the $35 million construction of a new residence at Ellerslie Park has been put on hold. 

“When I came into office, I said let’s put that plan on  hold, and instead use the funds to locate a new building to house the regulatory and supervisory function of the Central Bank.”

He explained the entire regulatory function of the bank was being extended.

Rambarran said, “I am footing the bill for my home ... for every single thing. When a decision was made to move back, there were changes I knew I had to do to my property, those changes are financed by me, not the Central Bank.

I want to make this very clear, this is my property and I am financing it. The Central Bank has nothing to do with that.”

He said the only money the bank has spent was for the construction of a security booth at his home.

“The board said no more than $200,000 for the booth plus the infrastructure. I have nothing to hide,” he said.