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Tech firm chief explains why $1.7m not handed over to the Government

Denis Pitcher (File photograph)

The owner of a tech company hired to set up an online payment portal for the Government has explained why about $1.7 million in revenue had not yet been passed on.

Denis Pitcher, the chief executive of ResQwest and also a fintech adviser to the Government, also agreed that the contract was not put out to tender before his firm was appointed – but added that there were a number of reasons why that was done.

Mr Pitcher said yesterday that revenues from the site would be transferred to government coffers as soon as ResQwest had been paid its fee for the set-up of the service.

Mr Pitcher said: “We haven’t seen our fees yet. We haven’t been paid.

“I’m sure the instruction has gone through but we haven’t actually been paid yet.

“Once it has been done, we just have to transfer the money and make sure we’ve accounted for things correctly.

“The priority was getting the job done. We didn’t have a contract and we didn’t have certainty and we were doing a job working day, night and weekend and we assumed we would sort it out – that we would settle everything later and that’s being done now.

“But I’m here in person, I’m not going anywhere with the money, if there are those concerns.”

He added that was the initial agreement in the absence of a contract between the two parties and that the contract had only recently been signed.

Mr Pitcher said: “To be clear, I’ve left it to my business partners to do all the negotiations with Government.

“The most I’ve really contributed is ‘OK’.

“Because of my potential conflict of interest, it wasn’t appropriate for me to be in the negotiations. And, of course, they’ve been flat out on this for the last few months.”

He was speaking after Kim Wilson, the health minister, was grilled by Opposition MPs about the contract in the House of Assembly last Friday.

Ms Wilson told MPs that ResQwest was hired by the Government at the end of June to set up and operate a travel authorisation form portal.

The form must be filled out by anyone who arrived in Bermuda to provide essential information, including Covid-19 test results of travellers.

The form, which costs $75 to complete, had to be available online before Bermuda reopened its borders on July 1.

Ms Wilson told the House that more than $1.7 million in revenue generated by the form up until the end of October remained in the hands of ResQwest.

She confirmed that the contract had not gone out to tender and that Mr Pitcher was already employed as a government consultant.

He added that the contract would be normally put out to tender, but his company was one of only three in Bermuda that could provide a suitable product, and of the three, his was the only one that had an off the shelf solution ready to put into operation.

Mr Pitcher said MPs were entitled to quiz the Government.

He added: “It’s a reasonable question to ask and it’s their job to ask questions. I would ask the counter question – how long does the tender process usually take for tech contracts?

“How long did it take under the OBA on average? Should it have gone out to tender?

“I guess it’s a question of who can deliver an off-the-shelf solution to solve this problem.

“When it comes to booking and scheduling on island, there’s only three companies that do that on island to my knowledge.”

Mr Pitcher said that his company got a call from the Government on a Friday and was able to give a demonstration of the software the on the next Monday.

He added: “My colleagues produced a demo and it was off-the-shelf mostly what they need.

“We as a jurisdiction got incredibly lucky in that we had a tourism product not really different from online booking and managing a dive questionnaire – it’s actually the exact same process we have a very flexible system around this tourism process.”

UPDATE: this article has been amended to clarify that the amount owed by ResQwest to the Bermuda Government is $1.7 million, not $17 million as earlier reported. It has also been amended to clarify that Mr Pitcher said that of three companies in Bermuda capable of providing a suitable product, his was the only that had an off the shelf solution. The Royal Gazette apologises for any inconvenience

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Published December 01, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 01, 2020 at 3:48 pm)

Tech firm chief explains why $1.7m not handed over to the Government

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