Former Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE person paid $1m for culture related consultancy services by the former government is Ian Poitier, a Bahamian engaged in the creative arts, former Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe told The Tribune Friday.
Mr Poitier was the first Bahamian to graduate from Oxford University with a law degree, Mr Wilchcombe said.
He has co-written and directed musical productions in the United Kingdom, and he has directed the Cacique Awards ceremony in the Bahamas for a number of years.
Without noting his identity, Tourism Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar said in the House of Assembly Thursday that he discovered that the consultant was paid over $400,000 a year, "more than the combined salary of over seven Cabinet ministers."
Mr D'Aguilar said the issue "smells fishy" and that he has ordered that no further payments be made to him.
Mr Wilchcombe yesterday countered that Mr D'Aguilar should talk quality, not just numbers. He said former Prime Minister Perry Christie personally sought out Mr Poitier and encouraged him to return to the Bahamas from the United Kingdom.
"When you think about the Bahamas, you must know in its efforts to develop itself and create presentations that would be impactful, you need someone of high calibre," he said. "The individual who was recruited from UK, an outstanding Bahamian who was brought home by the former prime minister to serve in cultural development, played a major role in a number of things we did over the past several years, including directing the Cacique awards. What the minister forgot to mention is the same individual had been hired by the previous administration to stage individual events. Our government decided to negotiate with him and see how best to have him involved in the development of our cultural identity and to have him help with events and we were satisfied with the work we did."
Looking simply at the "numbers" is the wrong approach to take when assessing payment to vendors, Mr Wilchcombe said, adding that Bahamians must also "look at quality."
Mr Poitier assisted the Bahamas with culture related presentations it made in Cuba, New York and elsewhere, he said, adding that he also assisted in the writing of national policies in various ways, including in relation to the National Development Plan."
"There are so many areas and things we were seeking to do," he said. "We need a national show that could be of the level which we see in Las Vegas or New York or Great Britain that we could present to the world with theatre dancers and artists we could put together with production. In a narrow perspective you could say maybe it was too much but a more broad perspective must be taken when you you taking someone away from what they do in the UK, directing major productions, and bringing him here. We have to appreciate this is a Bahamian with all the qualities who in my opinion was worth it. He worked between the prime minister's office and the Ministry of Tourism and was involved in all the major culture events in the Bahamas."
Mr Poitier could not be reached for comment before press time.