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Sandys 360 finances report ordered released

Into the sunlight: the information commissioner has ordered the release of the final report on the Sandys 360 sports complex

The Government has been ordered to make public a report into the finances of a failed sports centre that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez, in a decision due to be released today, told the Department of Public Lands and Buildings to provide The Royal Gazette with a copy of the report by audit firm KPMG by July 8.

Taxpayers funded Sandys 360 to the tune of at least $5.3 million, and possibly even more, before it closed its doors because of financial problems in November 2013.

Ms Gutierrez, noting that the Government is now in the process of buying the centre for $1 million from the trustees of Sandys Secondary Middle School, said: “The Government has provided limited rationale and factual information concerning its decision-making around Sandys 360, primarily provided during parliamentary debate.

“The public has not received, for example, an executive summary of any assessment, factual information provided in advance of a town [hall] meeting or consultation period, and so on.”

She added: “Disclosure of the KPMG report will undoubtedly close the knowledge gap in a number of areas for the public concerning the spending and decision-making related to Sandys 360.”

The KPMG report was commissioned by the trustees of the middle school, who own the freehold of Sandys 360, after the short-lived West End sports centre closed down just four years after opening.

The report was passed to the Government but was never made public.

The Department of Public Lands and Buildings rejected a public access to information request from The Royal Gazette for the document in February 2016, claiming it was exempt from disclosure because it was provided in confidence.

The newspaper appealed the decision to the information commissioner and, during her review, KPMG and the school trustees also objected to the report’s release.

But Ms Gutierrez concluded there was “no express communication or understanding that the report was given in confidence to, and would be kept confidential by, the department or Government”.

She said: “With respect to the actions the Government may have taken, KPMG and the trustees reasonably could have expected any number of circumstances to have arisen which would have led to public disclosure of some or all of the KPMG report.

“This includes disclosure during public consultation on the options concerning Sandys 360, in connection with the parliamentary debate on a decision to purchase the land and buildings, and so on.

“Both KPMG and the trustees were aware they were negotiating with a public body, and that the processes applicable to a public body’s financial commitments of this nature may be subject to future consideration or inquiry.”

The commissioner said releasing the report would further the purposes set out in part 2 of the Pati Act, which included promoting accountability for public spending and government decision-making.

Ms Gutierrez also ordered the department to issue a decision on whether it would share records about payments made to Sandys 360 from the public purse and the amount the centre owes the Government.

To see a copy of the decision notice and order from the information commissioner, click on the PDF under “Related Media”