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Controversial Ambling contract under spotlight

A controversial contract with an overseas consultancy, which was approved by Cabinet during Ewart Brown's tenure as Premier and Minister of Tourism, came under the spotlight yesterday at the Commission of Inquiry.

The $1.7 million deal with Atlanta-based Ambling International Consultancy sparked headlines back in 2010 after Opposition MPs questioned why it was necessary. Last week, the commission heard how Paula Cox, when finance minister, objected to the deal because it was not put out to tender.

Yesterday, civil servant Anil Chatergoon, who was financial controller at the Ministry of Tourism and Transport at the time, was quizzed by commission lawyer Narinder Hargun about the services provided by Ambling.

The company, headed by Eddy Benoit, was paid a $400,000 retainer for its services and had agreements to work with the departments of Works and Engineering and Planning, as well as Tourism.

Mr Hargun asked Mr Chatergoon if he knew Ambling had contracts with other government departments.

Mr Chatergoon, now financial controller at the Ministry of Education, said he was not aware of the extent of the other agreements until he received a witness bundle sent to him by the commission.

Commission chairman Sir Anthony Evans asked what “actual services” Ambling provided. Mr Chatergoon replied that he could not recall that without seeing the relevant invoices.

Pressed by Sir Anthony for any recollection of the “kind of work” Ambling did, Mr Chatergoon said: “Consultancy services.” He said the manager within the department would have more detailed knowledge.

The civil servant said he would have looked for detail of actual services provided before approving any requests for payment and would have asked for such detail if it was missing.

He said the contract that government had with Ambling included a schedule that listed the work that would be done.

Cherie-lynn Whitter, the deputy head of the civil service, referred to the Ambling contract in her witness statement to the commission, in response to questions from the panel.

Ms Whitter, who was permanent secretary at Tourism and Transport between 2008 and 2011, said: “As far as I am aware, Ambling provided hotel development consultation for the Cabinet Office and, by extension, the Department that had responsibility for various aspects of hotel development, in accordance with the relevant legislation.

“While I was the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Tourism and Transport at the time, the responsibility for hotel development remained the responsibility of the Cabinet Office. I have been unable to determine if any reports were produced and therefore I am unable to provide copies.”

Mr Benoit claimed in 2010 that his contract had saved Bermuda millions of dollars.

The tribunal continues today.

In the interest of treating the Commission of Inquiry much like continuing court proceedings, The Royal Gazette has taken the decision to disable comments. This is done for the protection legally of both the newspaper and our readers

Commission of Inquiry: Fiona Luck, Chairman and former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Anthony Evans, John Barritt and Kumi Bradshaw (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 05, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated October 05, 2016 at 2:37 am)

Controversial Ambling contract under spotlight

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