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Govt should disclose fees paid to gambling consultants


Published: Oct 23, 2013

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The gambling referendum held in January cost taxpayers just over $1.2 million, according to Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage.  When he revealed this figure earlier this month in the House of Assembly this was clarification on his part of what he described as an earlier misstatement of the cost.  The media was told previously that it cost around $5 million.

The cost the government has not revealed is how much it paid foreign consultants for advice about the referendum and gambling.  The most detailed statement on the issue came this week from Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who said the fees for those consultants totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars and was “money well spent”.

Wilchcombe, however, said he could not provide exact figures.  The government engaged British and South African consultants.

It is odd that the government does not just say how much it paid these people.  We all know that our governments like to pay foreign consultants for advice.  We all also know they like to pay them large sums for this advice.  And, we assume that at least some of the time the advice is at least a little useful.

“I think the minister’s answer in itself is very telling,” said Darron Cash, the chairman of the Free National Movement (FNM).

“The fact that he refuses to disclose the amount suggests in part that even they believe that it may have been an exorbitant [fee] and not worth the cost.

“The general view in the Bahamian community is that the money spent, if it is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, was not well spent.”

The unwillingness of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration to reveal the figure gives the impression that it has something to hide.  It must remember that the money it spends while in power is the people’s money.  When there is a question such as this on expenditure a democratic government should always lean on the side of disclosure and transparency.

“The fact that minister Wilchcombe is not prepared to disclose the precise amount is not surprising because the unwillingness of the Christie administration to make full disclosure to the Bahamian people on anything is consistent with the manner in which they have operated from day one, which is to withhold information and to insult the intelligence of the Bahamian people at every turn,” said Cash.

Cash’s criticisms likely annoy the PLP just as Cash’s party, the Free National Movement (FNM), was annoyed when the media pressed it for answers as to the cost of the infamous New Providence Road Improvement Project – answers that were not that forthcoming initially.

Nonetheless, this simple question of how much the PLP paid foreign consultants to give advice on gambling will hang over the party until it answers.  And if its answer is silence then we will all know that the party thinks we the Bahamian people do not deserve to know how our money is spent.


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