Opposition leader hits out in debt collection firm controversy
The Government has launched an inquiry into how a private company which did not have a debt collection licence was awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to recoup unpaid land tax.
A government spokeswoman said last night that the Department of Consumer Affairs would carry out the investigation, while the Ministry of Finance would review the contract with Oarrs Inc Ltd, which was awarded last June.
The announcement came after The Royal Gazette revealed on Friday that the company had not applied for a debt collection licence, according to a response to a public access to information request from the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The Government is owed $75 million in unpaid land tax and the contract Oarrs has with the Tax Commissioner’s Office states that it will receive 15 per cent of “all land tax arrears recovered”.
Opposition leader Cole Simons criticised the Government for the contract, which he suggested had not been put out to tender.
Mr Simons asked: “How could such a lucrative contract be given to a company without adherence to the proper procurement process, and who was responsible for awarding the contract?”
Legislation that came into force in January last year ruled that debt collectors could not operate without a licence from the Debt Collection Licensing Authority.
Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, stressed the need for a licence when the Debt Collection Act 2018 went through the House of Assembly.
Mr Simons claimed the Oarrs contract was an example of the Progressive Labour Party government “playing favourites yet again”.
He said: “Last week, it was the debacle of the Government’s handling of certificates of exemption for workers on the St Regis project, while local construction workers were restricted from working.
“Then it was the special consideration they gave to the SailGP athletes to train, while our local and own elite athletes, who should be able to train for the 2021 Olympics, were sidelined.
“The Government only made the appropriate corrections after they were caught out.”
Mr Simons added: “The OBA is calling on Government to be accountable – to do its job with integrity, fairness and transparency across the board, to level the playing field and to make the right decisions on behalf of all Bermuda and not just the chosen few.”