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Tourism defends agreement with Kanoo

Claims that Kanoo, the government’s digital payment provider for its travel health visa program, is “holding and controlling funds” earned under the program or that the company was chosen based off its shareholders’ political affiliation with the government are “false, erroneous and wholly untrue,” the Ministry of Tourism responded yesterday.

In a statement, the ministry said there are “many false and erroneous allegations made in the public domain” about the travel health visa program.

“To be clear, there are no missing funds and all cash proceeds are accessible and under the sole custody and direct control of the Ministry of Tourism personnel at all times,” the statement read.

The ministry noted that the program was adopted after a decision was made to reopen the country’s tourism sector in November 2020.

With a mandatory requirement in place for all travelers to have a negative RT-PCR test within five days of travel, the various airlines recommended a system that allows travelers to upload their test results, the statement indicated.

The statement read, “… the airlines insisted that their check in personnel would not be able to fulfill the required screening.

“In fact, one airline stated that if they had to screen the PCR tests of passengers prior to boarding a flight to The Bahamas, they would simply stop flying to The Bahamas.”

It added, “Developing that website, prior to tourism reopening, was a huge undertaking.

“Six weeks was the timeframe and the software developer, Think Simple, met the deadline.”

The ministry said given the timeframe involved, it undertook a “sole sourcing arraignment as opposed to an open-bid process, which would have taken three months or longer to complete”.

“Tourism was reopening in five days, the website was going live in five days and there simply was not enough time to develop and issue a request for proposal and then wait for and evaluate proposals,” it read, adding that this is “not unusual in circumstances such as this”.

“On the basis that Kanoo was, and is, an established electronic payment provider who had previously worked with the ministry’s online software developer, the ministry engaged Kanoo on commercial terms that were and are within the guidelines set by the Ministry of Finance for its third party revenue collectors,” it read.

“Further, the relationship of Kanoo to the software developer meant that the setup of the electronic payment system for the health visa would be able to be facilitated within the tight timeframe.

“To say that Kanoo was selected because of some political affiliation between the governing party and its shareholders is wholly untrue. No such consideration was ever a part of the decision making process.

“It must be stated that consistent with the established policy for third-party payment providers, there was no upfront fee.

“The service fees paid per transaction of 1.5 percent are well within the fee structure established by the Ministry of Finance. It is consistent with what is paid to other approved third-party payment providers such as Cash N’ Go, SunCash, IslandPay and Omni Financial.

“In addition, to say that Kanoo is somehow holding or controlling the funds earned by the travel health visa is completely erroneous.

“The commentators clearly do not understand how these electronic payment providers operate, nor do they understand the merchant processing relationship that is established once these types of arrangements are agreed upon.

“Consistent with all the other similar arrangements, the providers hold the funds temporarily before they are remitted to the government.

“In this particular instance, when the funds are earned, they are deposited into a Ministry of Tourism account with Kanoo. At all times, that account is controlled and monitored by the accounting department within the Ministry of Tourism which has online access to that account at all times. No funds are ever transferred out of that account without the express permission of the Ministry of Tourism.”

The statement came after Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis made certain claims about the travel health visa program during a press conference yesterday.

Following the ministry’s response, Davis called on the government to “provide audited statements, not a press release”.

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