ADB leased ‘exotic boardroom’ for $10M
By AZARD ALI Monday, September 24 2012
ALTHOUGH the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) had its own boardroom at its Henry Street, Port-of-Spain building, the bank, in 2009, leased a separate building next door, to hold board meetings. To date this lease has cost taxpayers $10 million.
A Newsday investigation discoverd that a floor in the leased building was refurbished to the tune of $5 million — equipped with a wine cellar, carpetting from the Middle East, gold-chromed chairs, oak tables and wall paintings purchased from the United Kingdom.
An ADB official described the room to Newsday “as the most exotic boardroom in this part of the world.”
Current chairman of the ADB, Rudy Maharaj, who was appointed in November 2010 when the Peoples’ Partnership Government assumed office in May of that year, confirmed to Newsday yesterday that upon assuming ADB’s chairmanship, he directed the bank’s management to terminate a three-year lease with the owners of the building.
He said the new board made the startling discovery, that the bank had leased a separate building to simply hold board meetings.
Maharaj said, “Yes, I can confirm there was a lease and we terminated it in April last year. Due to bank’s confidentiality, I cannot say more.”
But addressing the bank’s launch of the School Nutrition Caterer’s Loan at Centre Pointe Mall, Chaguanas, on Friday, Maharaj said the bank took a robust approach to wastage of its funds when the new board took office. He said the new board took a decision for the bank to terminate the lease for rental of offices and boardroom for the ADB’s previous chairman, in premises outside the ADB building on Henry Street, which had accrued rent for the three years which will end next year March, to the tune of $5 million.
Maharaj said since the termination of the lease, he holds board meetings at ADB’s Henry Street building where there is a boardroom. An official at the bank told Newsday an investigation conducted by the new ADB board, revealed that the leased boardroom was used more for functions by the Who’sWho of a certain political party, than for the bank’s business.
When this question was put to Maharaj, he reiterated, “I cannot discuss the bank’s business, but yes, the lease was terminated after three months notice was given to the lessor. There was no need for a boardroom outside the ADB building. It has cost $5 million yes...which the bank has lost.”
Newsday was told that the previous ADB board had furnished the boardroom in the building, at a cost of a further $5 million.
At the function on Friday, Maharaj revealed that over the past years, the ADB operated at a loss of over $100 million. He announced that the bank, for the first time since its inception, has made a profit of $5 million for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
“One of the features of the 2010-2011 national budget was the significant lowering of the bank’s lending rate at 3-5 percent. Despite this decrease in lending rates, the bank was able to realise a profit of $5 million, compared with accumulated losses, of over TT$100 million over the past few years. This is the first time the bank has registered a profit since its inception,” he said.