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PAC wants government to disclose consultant costs

  • Hubert Chipman. FILE

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 16, 2013

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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament will request the government to disclose exactly how much it paid U.K. and South African consultants it engaged to advise on gaming before the January 28 gambling referendum.

“You can say to me that we always use them as consultants, but you brought them down for a specific reason,” said St. Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee.

“That cost has to be associated with the referendum.  I’m going to demand it.

“We have to know how our money was spent and right now we can’t say.”

However, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts, who has served on the Gaming Board, suggested the opposition is pursuing a non-issue.

“Dixon, Wilson and Co. was engaged for countless years with The Bahamas,” he said.

“They have always been paid on the basis of annual retention subject to any work that they do.

“The opposition is wasting the public’s time suggesting that something unusual was paid out to Dixon, Wilson and Co.

“They need to go beat a drum somewhere else because that is a dead horse.”

Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage tabled the breakdown of costs associated with the referendum last week, but brushed off a request by Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis that the government table the costs of payments to the consultants.

“There were no consultants of which I am aware, not hired by my ministry or the Parliamentary Registration Department for the referendum,” Nottage said.

The document from the Parliamentary Registration Department stated that the referendum on web shop gaming and a national lottery cost the government $1,238,092.95.

Prime Minister Perry Christie told reporters in August 2012 that the government had engaged consultants from the United Kingdom to advise the Ministry of Finance on how a national lottery would be best structured in The Bahamas.

Christie then made the consultant, James Kidgell, a partner in Dixon, Wilson and Co., available to the media in November 2012, alongside his entire Cabinet.

When asked how much the consultant charged the government, Christie said: “I don’t know because there has been no bill put forward. But I know by and large we established a budget for this exercise.”

In January, Christie told reporters that South African consultants were advising the government on drafting comprehensive legislation relating to lotteries and gaming.

He said A and G Consulting, a firm recommended by Dixon, Wilson and Co., had “discussions with the Ministry of Finance and the Gaming Board with respect to how web shops function in The Bahamas”.

Christie said he expected the gaming industry to help pay the consultants’ fees. However, he could not confirm what the cost will be.

Chipman said he plans to put the question to the government next week.

Nottage was out of the country receiving medical attention, according to a statement issued by the Cabinet on Monday.

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