The new NHT Chairman Dr Carlton Davis, has changed the approach to the Outameni property in Coopers Pen. Davis now says they will try to sell or lease the property, instead of developing it as Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller had said in November, 2014. Dr Davis was speaking to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament. He was commended by two opposition members for his statement.
The Outameni saga had the country’s attention for months, after it was found that the NHT had bought the debt ridden Trelawny attraction. Many viewed it as a bail out of previous owner, Lennie Little-Whyte.
Here in Trelawny, we had hoped the theme park property in Coopers Pen would be re-developed so as to provide a few jobs as well as another attraction in the parish.
A little over two years after the National Housing Trust (NHT) spent $180 million to purchase the failed Orange Grove/Outameni attraction in Cooper’s Pen, Trelawny, in what the auditor general determined was a buyout of a bad debt owed to a local merchant bank, the Government is looking to either sell or lease the 10-acre property, which remains shrouded in controversy.
Newly installed NHT Chairman Dr Carlton Davis made the revelation yesterday at a sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament. “The decision has not yet been taken, but it is the most likely decision,” he stated.
“My own preferred orientation is to sell or lease the property as soon as possible. Out of an abundance of caution since, we created a Properties Review Committee. It was felt that we should give them the opportunity to see if there is some extraordinary alternative — which I doubt very much — so as to enable us to move very quickly to sell or lease the property. Hopefully, there are people around who would be interested in doing something useful with it,” Dr Davis told the PAC.
This is an about-turn in the Outameni saga, which gripped the nation for months. In November last year, at the height of the controversy, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who has portfolio responsibility for the NHT, told Parliament that she could not instruct the board as to what to do with the property, but that the site was prime for the educational, cultural and tourist attraction, which she had been told the board was considering.
In the meantime, Dr Davis, for the first time, spoke publicly about the debacle which ensued after light was shone on the deal, stating: “This is not an approach that I would have taken in dealing with this matter… It is not an area within the NHT’s core competence.”