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NSC Board approved $3.2m solar loan in May - Minister

National Sports Centre (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Financing for a controversial solar project at the National Sports Centre was approved by the NSC’s Board of Trustees in May, the sport minister reiterated at the Senate.

In response to questions Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Port, said the NSC board agreed to enter a loan agreement with HSBC at their meeting on May 20, 2021.

“There was a quorum and a decision was reached by the board on May 20 regarding this particular contract,” Dr Peets said on Monday.

“Based on the contract that was given to the NSC, that contract required at least two board members to sign off on that particular contract.”

However he said he had made “no decision” as to if he would table the minutes of the meeting or other minutes linked to the contract.

Dr Peets said financing arrangements were vetted by the Ministry of Finance and supported by the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

He said that the HSBC facility letter was signed by the NSC chairman and the Minister of Finance on the basis of the Board of Trustee’s approval.

Earlier this month The Royal Gazette reported that according to the minutes NSC deputy chairwoman Katura Horton-Perinchief said that, after AESG lost its funding, a request for a loan was submitted to NSC operations manager Craig Tyrrell – but was not put before the board.

The minutes quote Ms Horton-Perinchief saying: “That never came to the board. We had no knowledge that any of this was going on. That was not actioned by the board.

“So I am not sure where you can give feedback, chair [Jache Adams], but we are now at a loss because we are hearing now that this has been actioned without us saying this should be actioned. We have not requested a loan because we can’t pay back a loan.”

Speaking in the House of Assembly, Mr Adams dismissed the claims, claiming that the loan taken out by NSC was approved by the board of trustees in May.

Dr Peets also confirmed that the NSC chairman was an approved signatory on the contract when it was signed – even though one of the documents appeared to be dated the day before the board granted its approval.

“There is a clerical problem as it relates to a particular date,” he said. “There is a facility letter that was signed by the chairman on May 19 – that date is actually incorrect.

“It is a typographical error. It should have been May 20.”

Dr Peets told the Senate that accounts for the NSC last fiscal year showed a deficit of $1.7 million, with the body suffering a net loss of $20,000 in the last quarter.

“The cost of electricity for the NSC would typically range somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000 per month, and the monthly loan repayments for HSBC are expected to be approximately $33,700,” he said.

Dr Peets said that while the Government was backing the loan, it was not repaying the loan – although he said a Government grant to the NSC would help to cover the interest on the loan.

He said: “This $3.2 million loan has a five-year term, with about six months of interest being funded by a grant.

“The Belco bill is north of $45,000 a month and, given the fact that sum will be drastically reduced, we can be comfortable that the NSC will be able to defray its costs by reducing its energy use and transfer the debt that would typically go to Belco to repaying the loan.”

Dr Peets added: “This project is absolutely necessary.

“The current Belco usage for this facility is something that is not sustainable and as such the NSC has worked extremely hard to get us to this point.”

The $3.2 million solar project was awarded to contractor Atlantic Energy Solutions Group in May – almost three years after the company was first given a Letter of Intent to take on the project.

But while AESG said it had funding in place for the project in 2018, when it was selected as the preferred bidder, leaked documents showed that the NSC had taken out a loan to fund it.

The Opposition has argued the contract should be put out to tender again because of the change in payment plans for the project.

Government confirmed on Friday that they had guaranteed the loan.

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Published July 31, 2021 at 7:56 am (Updated July 31, 2021 at 7:49 am)

NSC Board approved $3.2m solar loan in May - Minister

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