Tax Administration Jamaica, TAJ, is blaming onerous procurement guidelines for the significant cost and time overruns that occurred in the leasing of certain properties.

According to an Auditor General’s report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the TAJ has spent in excess of $350 million over three years, despite not occupying the buildings.

Robian Williams tells us more.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis in her report noted that up to August 31, 2023, the TAJ expended nearly $372 million for the properties it had yet to occupy.

The Auditor General says the TAJ’s standard operating procedures are not consistent with best practices of accountability and transparency.

However, the TAJ in response blames those same accountability measures for the lengthy and costly delays.

TAJ says GOJ procurement policies require a lease to be in place before commencing the process to procure technical service and renovation of properties.

Once the lease is in place then TAJ is liable to make payments.

The administration says the delay in occupancy is attributed to the lengthy procurement process and build out required to make the space suitable for the delivery of services.

In the instance of the property located in Mandeville, Manchester, the process had to be restarted and both are still ongoing.

TAJ says in one instance the procurement process for renovating the space of such a size leased, requires Cabinet’s approval and a consultant to manage the project.

It therefore means, two separate procurement processes are required which cumulatively can take up to fourteen months for completion.

In addition to the lengthy timeframe for the process, the TAJ says the procurement for the building contractor failed on the basis that four additional contractors responded to TAJ’s invitation for bids before the date for return of bids elapsed.

In its response to the Auditor General the TAJ outlined the lengthy and detailed procurement process it undertook starting in December 2020.

However, it says based on current timelines, the Annotto Bay Tax Office should be open for business at the new location within the second quarter of the 2024-25.

It says the TAJ remains committed to observing the requirements of the GOJ procurement policy as it works to provide suitable accommodations for customers and staff.