Some of the Christmas decorations up near Arawak Cay. Photo: Aaron Davis
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Neville Wisdom again declined to say yesterday how much a government contract given to one of his businesses, Florarama, to decorate West Bay Street and the downtown Nassau area is worth, as criticism over the decorations grows.
Mr Wisdom, who served in the first Christie administration, said his contract is with the government and it would inappropriate for him to get ahead of the Ministry of Tourism by disclosing the worth of the contract without its permission.
When questioned yesterday, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe also did not reveal the worth of the contract. However, he told The Tribune that there were three bids for the work and that Mr Wisdom’s company put in the lowest.
He added that Florarama is run by Mr Wisdom’s wife, who Mr Wilchcombe said, was one of the most qualified and distinguished designers in the country.
“Florarama provided the lowest of the three bids,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “The company is renowned for its professional excellence. Over the next several days we expect the beauty of the decorations to light up the Christmas season. Junkanooers and other vendors are involved in the experience that is being created. Already Bahamians are taking pictures and enjoying the season.”
The Tribune reported Wednesday that Florarama has been given a contract to decorate downtown Nassau and Arawak Cay as the ministry prepared to launch a series of holiday themed events to attract Bahamians and tourists to the area.
The decorations, though incomplete, have been criticised by some Bahamians, with numerous pictures of them mocked in posts on social media.
What some perceive to be poor quality work has caused them to question how much money Florarama has received from the Ministry of Tourism for that work.
For his part, Mr Wisdom has stressed that the work is not yet finished.
The decorations at the Arawak Cay area, for instance, will be completed after the conclusion of a gospel festival, Fam Fest.
Fam Fest will be held between today and Sunday.
As for questions about his receipt of the contract, Mr Wisdom said his family has been in the decorating business for 43 years and he deserves to make a living from it now that he is out of office.
Though he refused to disclose details of his contract, he insisted it is not worth much.
It is fewer than what previous decorators have been awarded because so much of the work has been done in the Bahamas by Bahamians, he contended, despite the fact that the scope of the decorations this year exceeds that of previous years.
“It’s entirely Bahamian,” Mr Wisdom said. “Eleven groups of people have been hired to work, along with Bahamian artisans. We’ve been in this business for 43 years. My wife is a world-class designer.”
Mr Wisdom said criticism and press attention to the matter is an attack because of his identity.
“All of this is just to get at me,” he said.
Mr Wisdom said his company received a down payment when initially contracted and will receive the rest of its money when its work is completed.