KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace wants Glen Beache, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Tourism Authority to resign, saying his involvement in a company marketing the country’s tourism “is a straight conflict of interest that will only lead to corruption”.
Eustace on Monday also called on Minister of Tourism Saboto Caesar to terminate the contract between Lonsdale Saatchi and Saatchi and the Tourism Authority “because of their relationship with the CEO of the Authority, Glen Beache, which represents a serious conflict of interest”.
Eustace cited officials document in saying that on July 25, 2007, Beache, then Tourism Minister, registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) a company called Executive Automobiles Inc. The company was listed as involved in motor vehicle rental, repair, and maintenance and Beache was listed as the company’s secretary while he and his wife were the directors.
On May 12, 2010, Beache amended the name of the company to Lonsdale Advertising and Marketing Communication SVG Ltd. and changed its dealings to marketing, public relations and communication. Two directors, Kenrick Attale and Christine James, both from Trinidad, were added to the list of directors.
“This is a major deception to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and a total and absolute conflict of interest on the part of Mr. Beache,” Eustace said, adding that the major principals of Lonsdale Saatchi and Saatchi are also directors in Beache’s company in Kingstown.
Eustace further said that official documents indicate that when Beache renamed his company, he gave the name as having derived from the type of business the company would be engaged in and the name of its “sister company” in Trinidad and Tobago.
“The then Minister Beache is now the CEO of the Tourism Authority. He manages the Authority and its money and its contracts which it has with those companies,” Eustace told reporters noting that in 2008 EC$8.4 million of the Tourism Authority’s EC$14-million budget was spent on advertising and promotion.
Eustace said that while he did not know how much of the EC$8.4 million was spend under the Saatchi and Saatchi contract it was the largest expenditure that the Tourism Authority made.
But Beache, who is also Marketing Manager of the Tourism Authority, told reporters late March that when he decided not to contest the general election last December he started to prepare for life outside of politics, including registering the company Lonsdale SVG.
According to Searchlight newspaper, Beache said the company was completely different from Lonsdale Saatchi and Saatchi Trinidad and Tobago, responsible for marketing SVG tourism regionally.
Beache said he shelved the venture about three months before the elections because the business plan suggested that “Vincentian companies just don’t want to spend that kind of money on marketing and advertising”.
Beache said that while the company was shelved, it was still registered and owned by him, Attale, and Atalle’s financial controller in Trinidad.
He, however, denied that the company is responsible for EC$4 million of the Tourism Authority’s EC$14 million marketing expenditure.
“If anybody can find any evidence to say that I have done anything outside of my capacity as CEO for the Tourism Authority, please point it out to me. Therefore, the board will have the right to fire me,” Beache said.
However, Eustace said on Monday said it was “not relevant” whether Beache’s company in SVG was shelved or had done any trading.
“The fact that the Minister, as Minister, could incorporate a company in this country, which included directors – while you are Minister — of the advertising agency you have appointed, tells me something. It smells to high heaven,” he said and questioned the extent to which Beache, as CEO of the Tourism Authority, can supervise the work of his sister company.
“Can he have an arm’s-length approach to dealing with this matter when two of the directors are on his own company and he calls it his sister company? Is this in the best interest of tourism development in our country?” Eustace said.
“Will we get the best out of Lonsdale Saatchi and Saatchi at the best possible price if Glen Beache remains the CEO of the Tourism Authority? Why would the Minister of Tourism, now the CEO of the Tourism Authority, form a company with the same people hired to do our country’s marketing and promotion? That is a straight conflict of interest that will only lead to corruption,” he added.
Eustace also questioned the company’s effectiveness in promoting of SVG overseas in light of the continuing decline of visitors to the country.
He noted that visitor arrivals in SVG had fallen 17 per cent during the first quarter of the year when compared to the same period of 2010 and added that the situation is expected to worsen with Princess Cruise Line discontinuing calls to SVG.
Eustace also called on Tourism Minister Caesar to tell Vincentians how much money was allocated to Lonsdale Saatchi and Saatchi and how much has been paid to it for the promotion and marketing of SVG.
He also wanted Beache and Caesar to tell Vincentians about EC$75,000 the Tourism Authority reportedly paid in January 2010 to a company responsible for the marketing of a regional artiste.
He wanted to know whether the money was in fact paid, what it was for, and who received it. Eustace noted that the monies were paid about six weeks after the Constitution Referendum.