Nothing else suitable, says TAJ amid $1b retrofitting plan for leased building

Ainsley Powell, Commissioner General of Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), and Information Minister Dr. Dana Morris Dixon
By Clinton McGregor 
Commissioner General of Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), Ainsley Powell, says the agency was unable to find a suitable location for its tax offices in Manchester, which has so far resulted in taxpayers shelling out nearly half-billion dollars in a lease arrangement.
Mr. Powell, who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Tuesday, shocked the country when he disclosed it will cost taxpayers "close to" $1 billion to retrofit a leased property in Mandeville, Manchester, to provide services to the public.
Mr. Powell told the Committee that $451 million has already been spent to lease the building which will not be occupied until September 2025.
He said the bidding process for the refurbishing works will close today (Wednesday).
When asked by PAC Chairman Julian Robinson whether the TAJ had considered purchasing its own property, due to the massive cost associated with the leased facility, Mr. Powell said the current building was the only suitable property identified by the agency.
"When we started out we had actually pursued the acquisition of property, which we were not able to find suitable property within the confines of Mandeville. We were seeing things on the outskirt but we were conscious of the fact that for some taxpayers it would mean two transport to get to anything outside of the town. We didn't find anything suitable," he maintained. 
He also said properties within Mandeville did not have adequate square footage or acreage to facilitate parking.  
The billion-dollar bill for the retrofitting of a leased space has sparked much public debate.
The Ministry of Finance is to issue a statement on the TAJ matter.
This was disclosed by Information Minister Dr. Dana Morris Dixon at Wednesday morning's post Cabinet press briefing.
"I have been in contact with the Minister of Finance and the TAJ team. They have noted that they will be putting out a briefing, a press release that will give more details in terms of the details of that procurement activity. I do not have the details as yet. When I do get them I will be able to answer any questions and the TAJ team is also ready to answer questions," she said. 

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