Govt invokes acquisition laws to take ownership of Ocean View Hotel

Ocean View Hotel
Ocean View Hotel

Caretaker Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, on Wednesday signed an Order for the State to convert the Ocean View International Hotel into a hospice care facility as part of its measures to fight COVID-19.

The caretaker Minister was empowered by caretaker President, David Granger under the Public Health Ordinance that was issued in early March.

The actual order to acquire the property, using the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act was inked by caretaker Minister of State, Dawn Hastings.

According to the Order inked by Lawrence, the move is in order to transform the dilapidated, defunct hotel into a Sanitorium, “in order to facilitate care and treatment of persons suffering from the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) and related diseases.”

The order has since been published in the Official Gazette—the same day it was signed by Lawrence.

Hastings’ order for the State to take ownership of the property, was also inked on the same day as the one by Lawrence, to turn the acquired property, into a Sanitorium with both directives being published in the Official Gazette giving it legal effect, immediately.

As a result of the Order, the Commissioner of Lands, “together with his agents, servants or workmen, is authorized to enter upon the said land for the purpose of surveying or otherwise examining such land with a view to the acquisition of the whole or part thereof for the public work.”

The five-acre facility which was shut down in part due to its flood prone nature was recently taken over by Government in a move that it was unable to explain save to say it was working out arrangements with the owners.

This, since the administration had begun spending money to rehabilitate the private hotel—money government later admitted would run to more than a billion dollars.

The controversial spending by the administration long after the March 2, General and Regional Election has since also attracted the attention of the Officer of the Auditor General.

Auditor General Deodat Sharma told this publication earlier this week, “…all of this will be under audit after things have calmed down. But they’re being looked at right now, for a special audit when we get back to work.”

The Auditor General’s 2017 report, had found that drugs were being stored on the Ministry’s behalf in seven rooms at the same hotel, which was said to be termite infested at the time. Among the issues the Auditor General had raised was the lack of a formal written agreement between the administration and the private owners.

Granger’s finance tzar, Winston Jordan had told the state media that “to retrofit and outfit it will be more than a billion [and this] excludes running cost.”

This estimate, according to Jordan did not include a purchase price, which he said is a “different matter which can’t be dealt with at this time.”

The Ocean View International Hotel was owned by coalition financier Jacob Rambarran while works ongoing on the site are being undertaken by another known Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) supporter.