Rabat – The plot continues to thicken regarding a controversial contract a leading member of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) was reportedly awarded by his party colleague, Minister Delegate in Charge of Tourism, Lamia Boutaleb.After Boutaleb denied the allegations yesterday, the daily newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum has come out with new details about the contract that appear to contradict her statement.On August 31, news outlet Africa Intelligence reported that the ministry had awarded Southbridge A&I, a consultancy firm recently founded by RNI’s political bureau member, Hassan Belkhayat, a contract to revise Morocco’s 2020 Tourism Plan Vision. On Monday, Boutaleb denied the news in a statement, saying the ministry was still in discussion with several consultancy firms and that no contract had yet been signed with any company.But, according to Akhbar Al Yaoum’s latest report, the ministry indeed had the intention to sign a MAD 13 million contract with Southbridge A&I. The budget is almost double the MAD 7 million the ministry paid the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) two months earlier for the same project.The Arabic-language daily revealed that the deal between the Ministry of Tourism and Southbridge A&I initially needed the signature of the Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani.After El Othmani refused to give the green light to the deal, Boutaleb wrote up another type of contract, on which El Othmani’s signature was not needed, especially after a the Ministry of Economy and Finance, headed by fellow RNI member Mohamed Bousaid, gave its approval.But the loophole was not totally successful, as the maneuver was then blocked by the Ministry of Tourism’s treasurer. As a result, the contract was frozen “momentarily.”Will Southbridge A&I get the contract after the controversy is over? past incidents in which another RNI member, the Minister of Industry and Trade Moulay Hafid Elalamy, was involved when his insurance Group Saham was granted contracts by the government despite public controversy, gives reason to believe that this one too might not be over yet.