Controversial businessman Mark Maloney is being praised by an unlikely source for what has been described as “saving” ordinary people from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
St James Central Member of Parliament Kerrie Symmonds issued the praise while charging that Government was prepared to put scores of low-income tenants into the Valery apartments at Brittons HiIl, St Michael without basic finishes such as floor tiles, kitchen units and bathroom cabinets.
However, Symmonds said fortunately for the tenants, Maloney, who awarded millions of dollars in Government building contracts and who has been the target of ferocious Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) attacks, stepped in.
Symmonds said Maloney saved the Valery high-rise project by ensuring quality finishes, though they ended up adding more than half a million dollars to the cost of the buildings.
Addressing a BLP St Michael South branch meeting at Graydon Sealy Secondary School, Symmonds produced supporting documents dating back to 2012 when the apartments were built.
He commended Maloney, the principal official of Preconco, for insisting that Government not open the apartments to occupants unless the floor tiles, kitchen units and other finishes were included.
According to one of the documents, which was seen by Barbados TODAY, a letter to the National Housing Corporation (NHC) Chairman Anthony Wiltshire on a Preconco letterhead stated in part: “Valery: The tiling of the floors and the kitchen units were taken out of the original proposal when the NHC was funding the construction of the buildings . . . . We feel strongly that the units should be completed and handed over as a finished product and feel that if these units are handed over without them, that it will have a negative impact on the product and the NHC.”
Symmonds told party supporters on Sunday night: “Tonight the Labour Party is not [cursing] Mark Maloney. Tonight, the Labour Party is saying, ‘thank you Mark Maloney for saving the people of Barbados from Freundel Stuart’.
“I thank him because he put into writing a humane concern that the National Housing Corporation was prepared to build the Valery without doing kitchen tiles, and bathroom cabinets and kitchen cupboards.”
The Opposition Member of Parliament contended that based on the documents in his possession which “fell off a truck” Government’s intention was to rent the apartments minus kitchen tiles, bathroom cabinets and kitchen cupboards.
“I ask you if you have ever come across a tenant who has gone to a potential landlord, and the landlord tells you, ‘I will rent this but make sure you bring your kitchen tiles, put in the bathroom facilities, put in the cupboards in the kitchen, otherwise you have to keep your cutlery on the ground?
“That is when Mark Maloney intervened in writing on 26th of April, 2012, to rescue the people of these districts from,” Symmonds said, as he expressed regret at not having the documents prior to the 2013 general elections which the BLP lost to the Stuart team.
“Barbadian people were being exposed by Freundel Stuart and his administration to a situation where they were going to be asked to go into Valery and not have kitchen tiles, bathroom facilities in a modern high-rise multi-storey complex,” he said.
Also among the documents was a letter reportedly signed by one Alex Bishop for the Permanent Secretary, Finance, and addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Lands stating: “I have been instructed to inform you that the Ministry of Finance has approved the proposal. However, the enhancement of the amenities provided at the Valery High Rise Project carries additional cost in the amount of $630, 000 or $8, 296. 05 per unit . . . the selling\rental price should be adjusted accordingly to absorb the increase in the cost of construction of each unit.”
“That’s the additional cost that they were trying to save,” Symmonds said.
“To save $8, 000 on a unit Freundel Stuart was prepared to have ordinary people in Barbados rent units that the floor look like this here,” the St James Central MP said gesturing to the bare concrete of the school’s assembly hall.
“National Housing did not intend to put in these amenities. The Cabinet of Barbados presided over a process in which they instructed National Housing to ‘lef it back dey’ to save $8 000 on a unit,” he charged.
Speaking of what he said was poor treatment of taxpayers by the current Government, Symmonds said to his party faithful, “You understand how the Government that is elected to represent you and to lift you up is in fact a Government that is prepared to cut you off at the knees and drag you down?”
When contacted this evening, Minister of Housing Denis Kellman said the building of the high rise housing complex was before his time, and since he was appointed in 2013 he was not aware of the situation.
Repeated efforts to reach his predecessor Michael Lashley were unsuccessful.