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FNM ups demands on consultant fees

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 23, 2013

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The country will never know if the government got the full value for the money spent on foreign gaming consultants until the exact amount spent is revealed along with the advice the consultants gave the Christie administration, Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash said yesterday.

During a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said the fees for consultants engaged by the government ahead of the gambling referendum totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars and was “money well spent”.

However, Wilchcombe said he could not provide exact figures.

The government engaged UK and South African consultants for advice.

“I think the minister’s answer in itself is very telling, 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,” Cash said.

“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 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.

“While he may believe that it was money well spent, we submit that the true test is for him to disclose the information in terms of cost to the Bahamian people and at the same time disclose the full report of the consultants that were engaged.”

Wilchcombe said the consultants not only gave advice on the January 28 gambling referendum, but also about the modernization of the Gaming Act.

“It was money well spent,” Wilchcombe said. “We wanted to modernize. You must remember that The Bahamas used to be the leaders in gaming.

“We lost that edge because we have not done anything in the last 20 to 30 years.

“We have got to improve our gaming if we are going to compete with all these new markets.”

The government previously said gaming industry stakeholders would help cover the costs of bringing in consultants.

The House of Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said it will ask the government to disclose exactly how much it paid the consultants.

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