Bahamas Striping takes issue with Auditor General’s report

Atillio Holdings, a subsidiary of The Bahamas Striping Group of Companies, on Sunday expressed grave concern with the latest Auditor General’s Report, which reportedly called into question certain business practices of the company and its ownership of several apartments on Cable Beach.

The company said they took the opportunity to review the referenced report in its entirety, and having done so, the Principals of BSGC, of which Atillio is a part, were compelled to make a statement as the company has nothing more than its individual and collective integrity.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the auditor could have contacted us to supply documented and verifiable information and this was not done, we are left with the question, what is the true objectives of the Report,” the statement read.

“Given the Report’s flaws, defamatory, reckless and egregious assertions, we are requesting these statements be retracted considering the potential damage to our name, brand and reputation which we will protect at all cost.”

The company said for the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Auditor General to disseminate a report on activities of BSGC, and more importantly call into question –  from a one-sided and bias perspective, certain business activities without the professional courtesy of directly seeking information from BSGC is disturbing and begs the question as to what is the true motive?

The company said since the government came into power, they have had ongoing communication with the Ministry of Finance, through Acting Financial Secretary, Mr. Marlon Johnson.

“Through numerous conversations and email exchanges, we confirmed the beneficial ownership of Atillio and its ownership of the apartments on Cable Beach, now being questioned in this Report.

“What is extremely disappointing to us and certainly something that we cannot understand, is why the question remains as to who owns the apartments when the Ministry of Finance knew quite well that Atillio is the owner with a mortgage through the Royal Bank of Canada.

“In fact, the Acting Financial Secretary spoke directly to our Managing Director who by way of instructions to our Attorney, Davis & Co., written confirmation regarding payment of the government Stamp Tax was sent and received by the Acting Financial Secretary on March 14, 2018.

The Report also called into question Atillio’s incorporation one month prior to entering into lease arrangements with the Ministry of Finance, August 2017, a fact that Atillio said is not unusual.

The company said it was established as a subsidiary for the acquisition and management of various properties, all in keeping with BSGC’s ongoing diversification strategy.

“The Report asserts that the leases represented questionable value for money and went on to reference comparative apartment rents from online sources. It was our understanding that the Ministry of Finance’s decision to transition its foreign consultants out of hotels to reduce the cost of housing considering room rates and associated taxes it had to pay. We maintain we provided value for money,” Atillio noted.

The company further claimed that the Ministry of Finance Human Resources Department negotiated with and informed them of their need for living accommodations allowing for different Consultants to occupy the rentals on a rotational basis (every two to three weeks) in some instances requiring multiple occupancy per unit.

“The available units were assessed by the Ministry of Finance. During the negotiations, the Ministry of Finance stipulated that it would be Atillio’s responsibility to clean and make ready the units during the rotational period between outgoing and incoming Consultants. Additionally, the Ministry of Finance negotiated for Atillio to pay monthly utilities and bill the Ministry of Finance without an associated service fee. When one considers these facts, it is grossly unfair to make the comparison to a standard online listing while knowingly ignoring all the relating factors that impacts the value proposition. Conversely, it begs the question as to why these facts were not included in the report,” the statement outlined.

BSGC said it does not engage in price gouging and to make such assertions is not only reckless, but defamatory and egregious.

“It behooves us that such misleading propositions are being directly and subtly purported without BSGC being afforded the professional courtesy of dialogue regarding the leases in question. This is simply malevolent and raises the question as to the intent of this Report. Without objectivity and clarification of the facts, it is tantamount to professional assassination.”

Atillio Holdings said the most noteworthy element of the auditor’s report is the blinding light it has shed on the lack of developed standards and guidelines which exist in the Ministry of Finance’s own procurement policies and procedures, particularly as it relates to leasing agreements.

“At no time did Atillio Holdings Company seek to influence the Ministry of Finance to lease its apartments. At all time, we believe we acted in good faith, in accordance with what we believed to be established norms and protocols, going so far as to make living accommodation available to the Ministry of Finance even before having received first and last month’s rent and security deposit. Therefore, we are shocked by the auditor’s findings and seek to clear our good name.”

The company strongly urged the Ministry of Finance to take responsibility for its own “institutional failures” that the auditor’s report refers to as “gaps and weaknesses in the procurement policies and procedures.”

“We will not be made the scapegoat for the root of the problem as identified by its own auditor,” the company said, adding that the Ministry of Finance appears to lack internal written policies or procedures that promote awareness of and compliance with key laws and regulations governing procurement.