It is no news that our postal system has been seriously challenged over the past couple of years. Postal workers have had to endure substandard and dangerous working conditions, businesses have been subjected to disruptions to the operations and Bahamians have been provided with poor service.
While it is apparent that the relocation of the main post office is long overdue, there is an urgent need to modernize the postal system for the 21st Century. After years of inconvenience and discomfort, the Bahamian people expected a long-term solution and plan for the postal system. Unfortunately, we have been presented with another ad hoc and temporary solution – a temporary solution with a 5-year commitment.
According to news reports, the Government will be leasing at least 56,000 square feet in the Town Centre Mall at $12 per square foot for five years. The Minister with responsibility for the post office could not confirm the total cost to taxpayers when asked by the media. This would seem odd seeing that on the face of it, the total cost would be a minimum of $672,000 per annum or approximately $3.4m over five years. However, what remains unknown is the value of any anticipated leasehold improvements, ongoing maintenance costs and other associated fees for which the Bahamian taxpayer will be responsible. In the absence of all the details, we question whether this is the best deal for the Bahamian people and how construction or renovation costs of other properties identified compare to the amount of funds the Government will utilize to finalize the deal with owners of the Town Centre Mall. Furthermore, the Government has failed to provide details on how this will be funded and whether the current budget can accommodate the total cost of this venture.
The selection process for the new location also leaves much to be desired. There was no Request for Proposals issued by the Government to provide an opportunity for all without bias and encourage competition among small-medium sized businesses or owners of commercial property within the bidding process. It is disappointing that these are the actions of an administration that campaigned on transparency, accountability and economic empowerment for all. While the chosen location may have won the bid on merit, the process has been tainted by a flaws.
The result of this myopic approach to governance is that we will either find ourselves seeking a new location in five years or end up being stuck with this lease arrangement after investing millions of dollars in a property that we do not own.
We implore the Government to clearly articulate a vision and plan for the modernization of the postal system in The Bahamas in the age of technology and e-commerce. The business model must evolve with the changing trends and inspire entrepreneurship among the Bahamian people.