Opposition parliamentarian Kerrie Symmonds is sticking to his position that the unoccupied Grotto high-rise building complex was incurring security costs of approximately $10,000 a month. At the same time, he is accusing Minister of Housing Dennis Kellman of not having a clue about what is happening in his own ministry.
Symmonds on Sunday repeated the charge which the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had previously made in May of this year, and which Kellman had rejected at the time.
In a press interview in which he responded to Symmonds’ latest charge, the minister said the payment was for security services at the Dalkeith, St Michael complex, as well as other Government properties that were being vandalized.
However, armed with a tax invoice from Amalgamated Security Services Ltd for October 2015, the Opposition spokesman today sought to discredit the minister.
The invoice, received by the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and approved for payment, clearly showed that it was for services provided at the Grotto, and did not list any other location.
It totalled $9,600 for the month, broken down in two parts – from October 1 to the 15 and from the October 16 to October 31 – at $4838.76 each.
“It is clear that the bill for that month is $9,600 and change . . . .The invoice specifically indicates that it was not as Minister Kellman would have us believe, that [the money] was for a wide variety of housing developments but rather for the Grotto specifically,” Kellman told Barbados TODAY in an interview at his Pinfold Street, The City office.
“It is said that it is better to shed a little light rather than to curse at the darkness of ignorance. Mr Kellman is obviously ignorant about what is happening in his ministry,” Symmonds added.
The high-rise housing complex, which was scheduled to be opened in September 2014, remains unoccupied more than two years after completion.
Originally intended as a means to provide housing for low-income earners, Kellman announced in January 2015 the apartments would be sold on the open market for as much as $450,000 each to bring in money for the cash-strapped NHC.
Today, Symmonds said his grouse had little to do with the amount spent on security, but with the additional costs to the already expensive units.
“At the time of the completion of the Grotto, there were 27,000 applications for low income housing . . . . Part of the problem is that a large percentage of the National Housing [Corporation] applicants are earning less than $1,500 per month; and to be earning that wage and be expected to either buy a unit that cost $400,000 or pay a commercial rate for rental [is beyond them],” the Member of Parliament for St James Central argued.