By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Chief journalist of the tribune
METEOROLOGY DEPARTMENT equipment worth at least $19.9 million has not been insured and is vulnerable to loss or damage, Auditor General Terrance Bastian has revealed following an investigation on operations there.
The uninsured equipment includes five Doppler radars – only three of which are fully functional – tasked with monitoring the southern islands of the Bahamas and several airport weather observation systems (AWOS).
Many other uninsured equipment and instruments are also housed at the Department’s Altitude Observing Station at Windsor Field Road. When auditors visited the property in July, the building was in need of major repairs, leading a team of engineers from the Department of Public Works to determine that the building was “doomed”.
“None of the department’s equipment and instruments are insured against loss or damage,” said the report, which was tabled in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
The Tribune requested clarification from the Office of the Auditor General yesterday. None of the department’s equipment, including expensive radars and AWOS, was confirmed to be covered by up-to-date insurance.
On October 27, 2016, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, now the Ministry of Transport and Local Government, signed a contract with an international company for the acquisition of several Doppler radars and meteorological observation systems from airport, priced at $19,136,110, which included value added tax.
The government decided to purchase the equipment in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. The decision also came with the realization that the existing Doppler radar was not sufficient to cover the southern islands of Long Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay and MICAL. These islands were outside the effective range of Doppler radar alone of 150 miles.
Initially, the contract deliverables were for the installation of four Bahamas-wide Doppler weather radars and nine airport weather observation systems, along with associated software and services.
On March 6, 2017, the contract was amended and signed on July 22, 2019.
According to the audit report, changes were made to the contract, including additional supply containers, updated project plans, and additional costs and 12% default interest if balances remained unpaid.
“This project is fully funded by the Government of the Bahamas and is managed by the DOM (Department of Meteorology),” the audit report states.
“Five Doppler radars have been installed. However, three are fully operational: LPIA in New Providence; Marsh Harbour, Abaco; and Millerton, Long Island.
“Ragged Island and Mayaguana are waiting for BTC and BPL connections.
“In addition, AWOS facilities on the following islands have been completed: New Providence; New Bight, Cat Island; Fresh Creek, Andros; Matthew Town, Inagua. Additionally, two AWOS are awaiting relocation, they were destroyed by Hurricane Dorian and they are located in Marsh Harbor and Treasure Cay, Abaco.
“The Government of the Bahamas as of the end of our reporting period on June 31, 2021, has funded an amount of $19,946,235 for the project.”
Another breakdown of how that money was paid out showed that the government paid the foreign company $6,687,639 in fiscal year 2016/2017, $7,654,444 in 2017/2018, $2,880,417 in 2018/2019 and $2,723,736 in 2019 in the same year in December.
Regarding the Upper Air Station, an inspection was carried out there on July 13, 2021, at 12:30 p.m.
“The building is in need of major repairs because most of the department’s weather instruments are stored there,” Auditor General Terrance Bastian said in his report.
“A team of engineers from the Department of Public Works recently inspected the property and recommended the building be condemned. However, the department is currently awaiting the report from the Department of Public Works.
“During our inspection of the building, we observed significant damage to the roof which may damage the contents of the building. Also, the ceiling tiles showed signs of mold. The air conditioning in the server room is not operational, all instruments depend on the A/C unit.
“In addition, we observed trees growing on the flat roof of the building. The roots have penetrated the roof and allow water to enter the structure. We observed a steel tower on the roof that appears to be structurally compromised. »
The report also noted: “The building is equipped with an alarm system monitored by Sure Alarms Security Services. The department’s technical staff use the building, but during hurricanes they are often forced to stay there indefinitely.
Mr Bastian also noted that the work of the Department of Meteorology has potentially been hampered as its hydrogen weather balloon has not been used for over a year due to power supply issues for the hydrogen generator. .
He went on to note that during a review of employee records, it was found that a worker had a debt to the government in the amount of $1,500. The employee’s file did not indicate that the money had been reimbursed.
The details of the conclusions were set out in Mr. Bastian’s report for the periods from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019; From July 1, 2019 to June 20, 2020 and from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.