Maintenance Repairs for Government’s Washington, DC and London properties says Foreign Affairs Minister

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FOREIGN Affairs Minister Hon. Fredrick Mitchell

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Properties owned by the Bahamas Government in Washington, DC and London are expected to get necessary maintenance. The Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service, informed Parliamentarians of this June 2, 2022 in his contribution to the 2022/2023 Budget Debate.

“We expect to complete work begun by our immediate predecessors with regard to properties owned in Washington, DC and London. The buildings need substantial maintenance. Six million dollars is going to be required to fix the [Washington] building. It has been abandoned now for two years. Estimates were done but the building which is valuable real estate sitting on Massachusetts Avenue, Embassy Road in the US, has just been sitting empty for two years.

“I’m sure given the shortages that have taken place in the supply chain which has bumped up all the costs; I shudder to think what the costs are actually going to be but the building can’t just be a wasted asset it. It has to be repaired. Similarly, the buildings in London need substantial work. We look forward to getting started on that as well as the building called Bahamas House in New York, Harlem. It was bought in 1937 by Bahamians who lived in New York.
“The building, worth about $2 million, also is a wasted asset. I am advised that there is a tax issue with the building. I have asked the Consul General to get on top of that issue because we need to work on that building as well.”

Minister Mitchell advised that a task force has been implemented to address career paths and issues of disgruntlement among staff.

“There is a high degree of disgruntlement amongst the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the fact that so many of their careers have been on hold. Some people have been working 8 years, 12 years — no promotions. Some of them are still administrative cadets or administrative cadet trainees and have been sitting in this rank for years.

“We put in place Foreign Service Orders to wean the Foreign Service off the general public service. For 4 1/2 years nothing happened with these orders so these people’s careers have been on hold. Our predecessors decided to use contractual work which is fine because you are able to jump over the Foreign Service rules with regard to pay. It doesn’t actually set up a career path for people.

“We have a task force set up now headed by Ambassador Chet Neymour with other officials in the Ministry to get on top of the issue so people’s career paths can now resume. Hope this will do something to ease some of the tension on this point.

“There is a kind of fault line building up between those who have been there historically and those who have come in the last year and getting posted. Hopefully we will get that resolved. The Director General who has come back, Rhoda Jackson will be working with the permanent secretary.”

He thanked all diplomats employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the “yeoman’s” work. He also acknowledged Permanent Secretary Donella Bodie and her team who assisted with “personal” issues. “Their support is unequivocal from the government of The Bahamas for the work they do.”

Moreover, Minister Mitchell highlighted that the Ministry has increased hires and there are plans to open consulates in Toronto, Los Angeles, Dubai, Jamaica, Trinidad and Panama.