Pundits have agreed that the Antigua & Barbuda Festivals Commission should provide the Cabinet with a “transparent explanation” to justify the need for the shortfall of $1.2 million to make up the budget of $7.4 million for the 60th anniversary of carnival.
Government had initially approved a budget of $3.5 million for the 2017 festival, an additional $2.7 million was projected from sponsorship and revenue generation allowing for an overall total of $6.2 million; this left a shortfall of $1.2 m which the commission requested last week.
Government ministers determined that the $7.4 million was not realistic when the commission presented it to Cabinet in the absence of the Festivals Minister EP Chet Greene, who was off-island.
Chairman of the National Carnival Committee in St Kitts Noah Mills suggested that such request should be followed by documentation.
“If I am asking for an additional $1.2 million, I should be able to say hey; sponsorship fell through; here are the letters where the organisations re-negged on me; the contractual engagements for the artistes we were pursuing from the start, they have raised their figures for whatever reason,” Mills said on Sunday.
“They would be in a better position to calm the public and convince the government ministers that the increase is actually a meritorius one.”
Meantime, former Carnival judge and organiser Dr Ekua Richards, also questioned the timing of the request.
“Had something major occurred. Something that was not anticipated that came in at the last minute; or is the sponsorship not coming through as we anticipated. I am thinking with proper planning and proper execution, you ought to have known what you really wanted. This last minute thing is really mind-boggling,” Dr Richards said.
Both individuals were guests on Sunday’s Big Issues.
In a follow-up interview, yesterday, the Festivals Minister said the budget was taken to Cabinet without his approval.
“That was an administrative fault on the part of the Chairman of the Festivals Commission especially when I had given strict instructions that the submission should await my return this week,” Greene said.
Providing a rationale for the shortfall, Greene said at the time when the $3.5 budget allocation was made the carnival programme had not been fully designed.
He also said there are other elements of Carnival 2017 and the 60th anniversay, which are not every day occurences, which are all tied to expenses.
Minister Greene indicated that while he was not at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, he notes the language of the decision which leaves it open for him to present and justify the need for additional funding this week.