A section of the vandalised and abandoned St Joseph Secondary School.

The vandalism of the new St Joseph Secondary School at Farm Road, Curepe is “virtually complete” and according to Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly – it is a direct result of the lack of planning and foresight by the opposition United National Congress (UNC) that has landed the ministry with a billion-dollar debt to contractors.

Claiming that millions of taxpayers’ dollars had been stolen through the cost of construction and outfitting of the new school which remains abandoned to date, the UNC on Thursday night challenged the current administration to account for this, and other schools that have fallen into a similar state.

Responding yesterday, Gadsby-Dolly said, “It is well known that these schools were a part of over 100 schools started by the MOE under Tim Gopeesingh in 2010 – 2015.”

Gadsby-Dolly added, “Without proper arrangements being made to cater for the tremendous amount of funding that their completion would require,” she advised, “It is this irresponsibility that has caused the situation that exists up to today.”

Revealing that the MOE has so far had to pay judgment debts amounting to as much as $400 million to contractors because of a lack of funding arrangements – the Minister said these monies were used for the construction of 13 schools which should have been completed by 2021.

However, she admitted, “Billions more in funding has to be arranged to pay debts and continue works on schools…which were left in various stages of completion in 2015, with no funding to complete construction.”

But she assured, “It is being sorted out phase by phase, given our constrained financial circumstances.”

The new St Joseph Secondary School was built nine years ago and is located to the east of the current school premises.

In September 2019, school officials claimed it was being used as a haven by criminal elements and deviant students seeking to indulge in sexual acts and illicit activities.

Two years ago, the then Education Minister Anthony Garcia said they had been forced to engage the services of lawmen – after reports that armed persons who were believed to be living on the new school compound, had been intimidating students.

As to who was responsible for securing the vacant site, Garcia had explained it was the particular contractor who retained overall authority.

It is much the same situation today as Gadsby-Dolly said, “The effort now is to deal with the wider issue of getting contractors paid and back on site. That involves billions, hence the difficulty.”

She added it was the responsibility of the MOE to provide security for buildings that have been completed and handed over to them – Gadsby-Dolly said during construction – it is up to the contractor to provide security.