(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
While releasing the preliminary figures of spending for this year’s festival, and a few of the past festivities, Minister for Culture, Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley declared that poor records made it difficult to glean information of past festival spending.
During the House of Assembly on October 17, the Minister was asked by Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Marlon Penn, to provide a detailed breakdown of each expenditure proposed and actual that was budgeted for Virgin Gorda Easter, East End/Long Look, Road Town, and Carrot Bay festivals for the years 2003 – 2019.
Further, the Minister was asked to list which expenditures were paid and unpaid; as well as to include the total amount for each year, proposed and actual expenditure after the conclusion of each festival.
In response, Hon. Wheatley stated that it was difficult to provide the detailed breakdown requested because of poor recordkeeping of the previous years.
“I would really like to provide all the details he asked for, but recordkeeping over the years for the various festivals has been poor. Therefore, the figures for the detailed breakdown of each expenditure proposed and actual that was budgeted for Virgin Gorda Easter festival, East End Long Look, Road Town and Carrot Bay festivals for the years 2003 to 2019 are not readily available.”
Further, Hon. Wheatley said that his office’s research of the matter found that within the mentioned period, reports from the Festivals and Fairs Committee were only submitted to Cabinet for the years 2012, 2013, and 2015.
This response was not accepted by Hon. Penn, who declared, “Mr. Speaker am I hearing correctly? The Minister is telling me that from 2013 to 2019 we spent over $23.8 million on festival and you can’t tell me how that money is being spent.”
In answer to the Minister’s question about the unavailability of information, Hon. Wheatley said that he wished he could have traveled in time.
“Mr. Speaker, I wish I could go back in time to when the members of the former Government were in power and get the records for those years, but regrettably I can only provide information for that which I am responsible for right now, given the poor recordkeeping. This is something that we look to solve...This is one of the challenges we are committed to solving – the poor recordkeeping. I can’t make up the information. Reports should have been submitted; they were only submitted for the referenced years,” Hon. Wheatley pointed out.
Hon. Penn however noted that some of the years with absent information was during the 2007-2011 VIP administration. Further, the Leader of the Opposition accused the Culture Minister of throwing shade.
In making this point, the Leader of the Opposition said that the preliminary report further showed that the 2010 festival spent more than a million dollars.
“There was no detail of how the money was spent and dispersed for the last festival and based on your spreadsheet, we spent over $1.6 million dollars. So, you’re telling me you have no details over what you presided over, but you’re throwing shade at the former administration. You presided over this year’s festival and there’s no detail to substantiate how this $1.6M, $1.9M budget was spent,” Hon. Penn added.