Timothy Mangal, the National Housing Corporation’s new chairman, announced this week that the institution he inherited is in debt up to its eyeballs. Consequently it suffered a lack of technical staff and a number of, what he referred to as, failed projects. It fell to the new man at the head to get the NHC moving again as fast as possible. Indeed, Mangal blamed the situation on four projects that went nowhere and the numerous litigation woes they face. He cited “the Vieux Fort situation.” Under the previous UWP administration, he said, a lawyer had to be hired after lands in Vieux Fort were transferred from the crown ownership to the Corporation. However, some individuals claimed the lands as theirs and filed a claim in court.
The lawyer demanded a deposit of $10,000. She sent the government a proposal of $30,000 to complete the case. When the government changed in 2011, under the Kenny Anthony administration the lawyer was fired in favor of a well-known SLP supporter. Then still another lawyer came on board. The cost so far is just under $300,000—and the case has not even gone to court. Meanwhile creditors are demanding money owed. “We called in the original lawyer,” Mangal went on.
“To my surprise she already knew everything in my files on the Vieux Fort matter. It made sense to rehire her and dispense with the services of the other two lawyers.” It remains now for him to sit with the fired lawyers in pursuit of an amicable resolution. “We need to discover, do they owe us a refund since the case has not gone to trial—or do we owe them some kind of compensation?” The lawyers in question have not responded.
As for the rehired lawyer, whatever she’s is paid will be“nowhere close to what was proposed by her terminated predecessors.” Another thing: Mangal says he’s confident the NHC will be successful in court.
“Anybody can claim property as his own,” he said. “It’s something else to stand up in court and prove your case. From what I have seen, the lands in question clearly belonged to the former National Development Corporation and the crown before it was transferred to the NHC. There is no record at the land registry to indicate otherwise. It’s a lot of land, over six hundred acres.” But resolving the matter has been expensive. “It is such situations that have brought the NHC to be where it is today, in a serious financial trouble,” said Mangal.
He added: “There is almost two million dollars that the NHC has to honor, that it cannot honor; something has to happen. Paying an exorbitant $10,000 a month in rent for the NHC headquarters makes no sense when we can rent for far less from in our own buildings.”