A partner at one of the 21 companies that secured a spot for Illinois’ upcoming cannabis license lottery is an employee of the company that received a no-bid contract to grade applications for the licensing round, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Hamd Kamal works as a risk management consultant for KPMG and is listed as a manager for EHR Holdings LLC. According to the report, the principal address for EHR is a head shop also run by Kamal.
KPMG was awarded a $4.2 million contract through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. EHR earned perfect scores on its applications – like the other 20 approved companies.
KPMG spokesman James McGann confirmed Kamal’s employment status with the firm to the Sun-Times but said “he was not part of the engagement team that scored the applications.”
“The scoring process was objective, following the state’s criteria, with a blind scoring methodology. The team scoring the applications would have no knowledge of the names or affiliations of applicants. A separate team scored certain aspects of the application, such as social equity.” – McGann to the Sun-Times
EHR spokesman Eric Kowalczyk defended any possible link, saying that the company only learned of any association between it and KPMG “two days ago.” However, Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said that KPMG “had a plan in place to ensure that any potential conflicts of interest were addressed and did not influence the process.”
“They are a large international firm with experience ensuring there aren’t conflicts of interest,” she said in the report.
KPMG holds another $2.5 million no-bid contract by the state Department of Agriculture to grade applications for cultivation, transport, and cannabis infusion licenses.