NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government intends to sign an agreement with a foreign vendor to collect fees related to boat registration and cruising permits on the government’s behalf, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest revealed last night.
He was responding to questions from Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis, who questioned why the government would appoint a vendor to collect these fees when there are fisheries officers for that purpose.
Davis said: “It seems that this vendor is going to be collecting all the fees —collecting government revenue — and they are now adding a cost to the customers by allowing that vendor to charge a processing fee.
“And what is that processing fee? And y’all never spoke about it either. Minister you didn’t say anything about this. I need to know why this is necessary. You are looking for revenue; we need revenue.”
Turnquest said the purpose of the agreement was primarily as the vendor had reach beyond registering boats, but a “deep network of potential clients for The Bahamas based upon their nationwide American profile and database”.
“They are able to provide some marketing and reach for us that we currently do not have and we anticipate that we will have increased traffic as a result of that relationship,” the minister said.
He also explained that the government is losing an estimated $50 million because boats are simply not registering.
According to Turnquest, the government has also located two Bahamian to provide the same service from The Bahamas.
He said ultimately the fees the government receives will not be “diluted at all”.
“If the users of this service wish to use the service they will pay the provider whatever their processing fee is,” Turnquest said.
“That has nothing to do with us.
“If they price themselves out of the business, they price themselves out of the business, but we as the jurisdiction will get our government fee.
“In addition to that Mr. Speaker, the Customs Department, we are working on a module to extend the customs electronic single window to facilitate the business directly, and so if somebody does not want to pay for that service they can go straight to the customs portal and contract directly with the government.
“So, there are a number of avenues. The main point is we want to provide an easy registration mechanism for boaters to be able to register, get their licenses, including their fishing licenses before they even enter The Bahamas. And so, it is just an efficient way.”
Davis said he knew the name of the vendor and it was curious.
Turnquest retorted that Davis knew “exactly what he speaks of”.
“There is a reason why he knows, but I’ll leave that to him to talk about,” he added.
The government tabled the amendment to the Boat Registration Act, which seeks to modernize the registration of boats, particularly for charter fees and cruising permits.
The amendment was passed just before midnight.