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Nottage to table referendum costs

Nottage says mistake was ‘regrettable’
Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 09, 2013

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Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage said yesterday he plans to table the costs associated with the January gambling referendum in the House of Assembly today.

Last week, Nottage told reporters the controversial vote cost the government “around $5 million”.

However, on Monday, he said he “inadvertently” gave the wrong figure. He said the referendum actually cost just over $1.2 million.

Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis on Monday called for Nottage to table the referendum’s cost  in Parliament, but Nottage said his actions are not motivated by calls from the opposition.

“It has nothing to do with the FNM,” Nottage told reporters after he gave an address to the Rotary Club of Nassau at Luciano’s restaurant.

“[I] as a politician am very protective of my integrity and nobody has to ask me to table it.  I will table it tomorrow morning.”

When asked how much the government paid foreign consultants who gave the Christie administration advice ahead of the referendum, Nottage did not reveal the figure.

“It’s not my job to speak to that,” he said.

Nottage said again yesterday that he made a mistake when he spoke to reporters last week.

“I’m not going to comment any further on that,” he said.

“I’ve corrected myself. I made a mistake and it doesn’t matter why the mistake was made. It was regrettable.

“I think it could have been handled differently by the press, but I understand. So I accept it but I am not commenting any further on that matter.”

Nottage released a statement on Monday explaining that he was uncertain about the referendum’s cost when he spoke to the issue last week.

“I wish to point out that I am now in possession of the exact figure, which has been provided for me by the Parliamentary Registration Department,” he said.

“The actual figure spent was $1,238,092.95. I regret any misunderstanding that I may have created.”

Nottage’s earlier comments about the referendum’s cost elicited criticism from the FNM last week.

The party called on the government to detail the expenditure.

Minnis said regardless of how much money was spent on the referendum, the Christie administration has placed a strain on public finances through the hiring of “consultants, retirees, pensioners, friends and excess travels all over the world”.

“[Bahamians] should not be surprised if this government returns to Parliament, if not soon, later, requesting permission to borrow millions of dollars again,” he said on Monday.

On Sunday, Minnis called on Prime Minister Perry Christie to resign as minister of finance because of the apparent discrepancy between figures Christie and Nottage gave for the referendum’s cost.

In January, before the vote, Christie said the referendum would cost more than $1 million, though at the time he said he was unsure of what the exact cost would be.

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