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Sandys 360 staff paid $500,000

Sandys 360 chairman Stanley Lee

More than half a million dollars was spent on salaries for permanent and contract staff at the failed sports centre Sandys 360 in its final year of operation, the organisation’s unaudited financial statement has revealed.

The centre paid $404,928 in wages to permanent employees, including “benefit expenses”, plus $111,968 to non-permanent workers.

The figures were detailed in documents filed by Sandys 360 chairman Stanley Lee with the Registry-General in August 2016 and were the centre’s biggest expense.

Its next biggest outlay was for electricity — $111,705 between January 31 and December 31, 2013.

The news came as senators are expected to agree on Friday to a government scheme to bail out the trustees of Sandys Secondary Middle School and buy the centre with $1 million of public money.

The buyout bid was set up despite no plan being tabled in Parliament for how much it will cost to run the centre in the future.

Taxpayers have already forked out at least $5.3 million on Sandys 360, according to limited disclosures made under public access to information.

The trustees still owe an unknown amount in unpaid land taxes, payroll taxes and social insurance, and have yet to return an $807,000 government grant made by mistake.

The financial statements at the Registry-General cover the “closing period” of Sandys 360, up to June 30, 2014.

The centre on Broome Street was open from 2009 to October 2013, when it closed its doors because it was unable to afford its high operational costs.

In a letter accompanying the paperwork, Mr Lee said Sandys 360 paid rent to the trustees of Sandys Secondary Middle School, who held the $9.5 million mortgage on the property.

He added a downturn in the economy in 2011 led to “declining income” and an inability to pay the rent “which in turn affected trustees’ ability to meet their mortgage requirements”.

Mr Lee said the charity accepted $2 million from the Government in April 2013, the first instalment of a promised $6 million grant to “assist the trustees with their commitment”.

He wrote: “During the ensuing year, because of low income and high overhead, Sandys 360 was also challenged in meeting its obligations. Belco had no choice but to shut off power to Sandys 360 because of inability in paying its bills”.

The letter detailed how another $500,000 was given to Sandys 360 by the Government in December 2013, with the condition that it agreed to an independent business review by the professional services firm KPMG. Mr Lee wrote: “An early review of our status provided the obvious — we were insolvent.”

Successive governments have failed to make the KPMG report public and the Information Commissioner, Gitanjali Gutierrez, is reviewing whether it should be released.

Sandys 360 had $1.3 million in liabilities by June 2014, including more than $260,000 owed in staff wages, the financial statement showed.

Mr Lee and Sandys 360 managing director Melvyn Bassett, both trustees of Sandys Secondary Middle School, have declined to answer questions from The Royal Gazette.

The Ministry of Public Works, which is spearheading the purchase of Sandys 360, has stonewalled repeated questions on the centre.

The Royal Gazette asked for the total amount of public funds spent on Sandys 360 to date and for the release of the KPMG report last month.

A government spokeswoman said: “It is unlikely the ministry will offer comment.”

She later added that was because “it has yet to be debated in the House of Assembly”.

The purchase was debated and approved by MPs on March 2, but there has still been no response from the ministry.

A Belco spokeswoman said: “Electricity service to Sandys 360 was disconnected in October 2013; however, we cannot disclose information on individual customer accounts based on Belco’s confidentiality policy.”

• This article has been amended because the Senate debate on the purchase of Sandys 360 is now expected to take place on Friday, rather than today.

• To read the final financial statement and accompanying letter, click on the PDF under “Related Media”