By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE consultant whose $1m contract with the Ministry of Tourism has come under public scrutiny yesterday responded to assertions that he was being paid an “outrageous” sum for having done little work, as he rejected the suggestion of being involved in anything “crooked or underhanded”.
Ian Poitier, a Bahamian engaged by the previous Christie administration for culture related consultancy services, released an 11-page response to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar who on Thursday told parliamentarians 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,” adding that he has ordered that no further payments be made to him. He did not disclose Mr Poitier’s name when he made the remarks.
Mr Poitier has a law degree from Oxford University.
He has co-written and directed musical productions in the United Kingdom, and has directed the Cacique Awards ceremony in the Bahamas for a number of years.
Mr Poitier yesterday clarified that his expertise and credentials were solicited by the previous government as he defended his reputation.
He also claimed that what he was paid as a consultant was lower when compared to other consultants paid to do similar work in the Bahamas, in the Caribbean region and globally.
Mr Poitier said he finds the dilemma to be “truly bizarre” but admitted that his singular mistake “has been in not absolutely insisting that I was provided with a signed contract before starting the work.”
“Although he (Mr D’Aguilar) did not mention me by name, taking together all the details mentioned, I surmised that he was referring to me. Others have clearly concluded the same,” Mr Poitier’s statement noted.
“In his remarks relating to me, the minister made the following allegations: That there was something ‘fishy’ about my consultancy with the government; that executives at the Ministry of Tourism think that whatever work I’ve done doesn’t represent value for money; that the minister couldn’t find any evidence of what I’ve done; that I have been paid outrageous sums of money (and) that the minister could find no evidence of a signed contract, implying that no contract exists.
“Because of the damage that the minister’s remarks have had on my reputation, in this statement I wish urgently to refute each of these allegations in turn. Taken together, the minister’s statements paint a picture which is inaccurate, incomplete and misleading,” Mr Poitier continued.
He said he was due to meet with Mr D’Aguilar at 4pm on Thursday, only to have the meeting cancelled abruptly.
“That said, even though the minister has not extended the courtesy to me of speaking with me or meeting me once since his appointment, I feel constrained from entering into too much detail in public at the moment, as I still have an effective consultancy agreement with the government. And I will continue to offer the minister all the respect and courtesies and discretion due to him, as I did to members of the previous administration.
“At the outset, I should emphasise that I am an independent person, a private citizen. As such, I will continue jealously to guard and defend my reputation, by whatever means necessary. Also, I did not hire me. If the minister’s quarrel is with the previous administration, then it is regrettable that he did not make that clear. I hope that members of the previous government will issue appropriate statements setting out the facts for the minister.”
On the issue of the amount of money he was paid, he noted: “One of the most egregious allegations is that I have been paid outrageous sums of money to do this work. Before I go further, I must emphasise that I have been providing consultancy services to the government of the Bahamas, not working as an employee. As such I am responsible for all the costs arising out of that consultancy.
“These include payments to other people, third-parties, for all the work they do to support me, as well as all other business expenses. The negotiations regarding the work I was to deliver, was predicated on me setting up a separate company to carry out the work. I set up a company for this purpose, at some cost. I was told in the meantime to invoice the Ministry of Tourism in my own name, and that once the contract was fully executed, the paperwork should be transferred to the company. This I did, and I named the consultancy in memory of my sister, who had recently passed away. As the contract was not executed, I have allowed the company to go dormant.
“I will not engage in a discussion regarding my personal finances.”
In his statement, Mr Poitier recalled leaving the Bahamas in 1980 at the age of 15 and “living and working abroad mostly in London, for 34 years.”
In his formative years, he attended the Lester B Pearson United World College in Canada for his International Baccalaureate before proceeding to Oxford to undertake training in law.
He then went on to train in musical theatre at The Arts Educational Schools in London and after this worked on numerous projects in the United Kingdom.
“At the invitation of the government, I returned home in October 2014 to undertake a three-year consultancy,” he noted.
“Throughout my entire career, never once, not once, has my integrity ever been called into question. I have worked on projects for the British government, Buckingham Palace, the European Commission and some of the largest corporations in the world eg, the BBC, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Sky Television, American Express, GlaxoSmithKline etc. I have also worked for some of the smallest start-ups, and have my own established entrepreneurial ventures. I have sat on the boards of charities, and been engaged in a number of non-governmental organisations. Never once has my character been called into question. I don’t tell lies. I have never defrauded anybody. I treat people with courtesy and respect. I work hard, and always above and beyond the call of duty. I produce work that is world-class and of the highest quality. I deliver.
“The suggestion that I would be involved in anything crooked, or underhanded, or not above-board, or in any way dishonest, is profoundly upsetting and offensive. I reject it in the strongest possible terms. My reputation is spotless, and having been drawn into this kind of scandal, deeply saddens me.”
He further wished to correct the “false impression” left by the minister that he was merely a cultural consultant to the Ministry of Tourism.
“This ignores the substantial body of work that I have delivered over the past two and a half years which does not relate to culture or to tourism, work considered by many to have been of high quality.
“It is extremely disingenuous of the minister to claim that he could find no evidence of what I’ve done. He could have asked his permanent secretary, who I recently updated several weeks ago with a full list of my accomplishments and achievements. He could even have asked me!”
Among other contributions, Mr Poitier claimed to have led the creation of a National Cultural Development Strategy (incorporated into National Development Plan); led development of new National Centre for Performing Arts; authored a creative industries strategic framework which is in progress; authored a downtown and cruise ship development strategy and served as an advisor to a Bahamian music song competition.
He also claimed to be a general policy adviser to the prime minister and said he would review and comment on third-party proposals for minister of tourism.
Mr Poitier also said he wrote, produced, choreographed and/or directed national, international events namely the Bahamas independence celebrations; Exuma Heritage Festival; Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival opening ceremonies among several other events.
Mr Poitier said that notwithstanding the last few days: “I don’t regret coming home. It has not always been easy, but it is still home.”
“It will probably be more difficult now to persuade others to follow me, once they hear of my experience. To be attacked by a minister in Parliament, and then by members of the public, when you have just always tried to do your best...it’s upsetting, an aspect of life in the Bahamas that is not better. Thankfully my work is still highly-valued in the UK and the United States. If the minister specifically, and the new government generally, wishes me to continue to help, then I remain ready to work on behalf of the country.”