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Munnings: No evidence of value for money in cultural consultancy

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Jun 19, 2017

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Veteran Bahamian entertainer Freddie Munnings Jr. said there is nothing that he can see “emanating from the current or former Ministry of Tourism” that would suggest that there was value for money in the more than $1 million spent by the Christie administration for consulting on culture for the ministry.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D'Aguilar revealed last week in his contribution to the 2016/2017 budget debate that, since assuming office, he has commenced a review of all contracts undertaken by the ministry and discovered that one individual was being paid over $400,000 per year — “more than the combined salary of over seven Cabinet ministers" — for consulting services on cultural tourism.

That consultant has since been revealed to be Ian Poitier.

Speaking to The Nassau Guardian, Munnings said, “My initial reaction, like many Bahamians, is that, that is an exorbitant amount of money, it seems, for an individual from what I can gather, to have been granted such a consultancy,” Munnings said.

“Now let me preface my statements by saying, not having the benefit of knowing the details of what the contract may entail, I cannot, and I would not, even attempt to put a value on somebody’s services, because I am in the service business myself.

“But the bottom line is, if you spend that kind of money in a community like ours, specific to cultural activities in the Ministry of Tourism, then you would expect to see some direct results from such expenditures.”

Munnings said that, from where he stands as a person involved directly in the cultural industry, he does not see anything that would say that, that kind of consulting, specific to the Ministry of Tourism, was “money well spent”.

“I would also be prepared to say that if the former minister, or whoever it was that contracted the consultant, received good information, why wasn’t it used for the betterment of the industry or the cultural development of our country? Because, over the last several years, there is nothing I can see of significance that would have come out of that particular industry that would give me the impression that he had the benefit of this kind of expertise,” said Munnings, a former member of the Bahamas National Festival Commission and The Bahamas’ cultural ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

“There is nothing I can see. I see the ministry still doing the same type of things that they were doing.”

Munnings also urged the Ministry of Tourism to “get out of the business of producing professional entertainment and do their job, which is to expose, promote and market The Bahamas”.

He insisted that the Ministry of Tourism’s job is to “give incentives, create opportunities and encourage people in the profession of the entertainment and cultural industry to produce those events”.

“The ministry’s job is not to be producing events,” Munnings said.

“That is my position.”

Wilchcombe said Poitier played a major role in a number of things the Christie administration did, including directing the Cacique Awards, assisting with cultural presentations made in Cuba and New York, and assisting in the writing of national polices in relation to the National Development Plan.

He said Bahamians must “look at quality” and not just “numbers”.

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