Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019
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Not getting value for money

Downtown Nassau looks cheap. The Christmas decorations the government paid for are mediocre.

Bahamians complained for weeks. Then we discovered a contract was awarded to a company owned by Neville Wisdom, a former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) minister, for the decorations. The lackluster set-up was the result of a friendly government helping a friend.

The next question was how much did Wisdom’s company get paid. Well, we got that answer recently after many questions from the media. The contract was for $334,000. If you walk downtown you’d be hard-pressed to find $300,000 worth of beauty.

“Go get our money back, because the reality is, and I think most people agree, the decorations are hideous, and they are amateurish at best,” said Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest.

“To think that, that cost $334,000 is absolutely ridiculous. So I say go get our money back because it’s an embarrassment to us. It’s an embarrassment to the city as far as I’m concerned.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Tourism said Florarama of Cable Beach was the lowest of the bidders for this year’s decorations. The other quotes received for the Bay Street, Pompey and Arawak Cay decorations were from Bahamas Fantasies, which submitted a quote of $585,766.75, and Decorations Den, which submitted a quote of $429,360.

“The decision by Florarama to involve a large number of Junkanoo artisans from the various groups, mixing the colors of the season with the traditional lights, are aimed at creating a unique Bahamian Christmas celebration,” said the ministry.

“…As a condition of the contract, decorations used are now the property of the Ministry of Tourism.”

There is nothing we see on display that is worth saving. The ministry need not try to fool us with that line.

Earlier this month, amid widespread criticism on social media, Wisdom pleaded with “naysayers” to wait until they were completed to pass judgment. He said it was more important that “hundreds of people from the Junkanoo community” were being given an opportunity for employment.

“Everything that is being used is being done here, the straw work, the thatch,” Wisdom said. “Everything is being produced locally.

“The funds that have been spent were spent in Nassau, even right down to the lighting bought and rented locally.

“We have to appreciate our own, and I think we do a tremendous disservice to our young people before we give them an opportunity to even finish the project. We start in such disparaging terms about them. If you want to be objective, at least let them finish it. They just started.”

This is not about disparaging young people. This is about cronyism. This is about the waste of taxpayer funds. This is about making our city center look cheap.

There is nothing wrong with businesspeople earning reasonable profit from state contracts. But once granted, there is an expectation of value for money spent. No right-thinking person who has been downtown would say they see $334,000 in decorations, creativity and beauty. It was the responsibility of the contract-holder to deliver an attractive product. That has not happened.

Bahamians see this for what it is: The PLP “Believes in PLPs.”

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