By Elesha George
A report on the expenditure over revenues generated from the Dominica Antigua Relief Fund (DARF) shows less than impressive net receipts of $100,027. The figure is just about $25,000 less than the total donations that had been collected to aid the staging of the Caribbean Strong Benefit Concert on October 29th, 2017.
The concert, meant to be a fund-raising event to assist hurricane victims in Barbuda and Dominica, amassed a whopping $385,235 in expenses. A large portion of the payments covered airfare and accommodation for the artistes, performance fees and per diem, snack and catering and stage and lighting costs.
Chairman of DARF, Darwin Telemaque, who said the group found it necessary to offer up full transparency, explained that it was “regrettably an extended period of time awaiting the conclusion of the audited statements.”
Telemaque said the inordinate delay, “created too many opportunities for individuals to speculate widely”, as he apologised to the public for the challenges that that may have caused.
“We were not paying the auditors for their time; we could not demand of them, other than what they delivered to us. The challenge was that we were forced to wait for them because they were part of the process itself,” he explained, adding: “We have no knowledge of precisely what factors may have impeded the ability of the individuals to conclude what they did”.
Telemaque lamented on the lack of support from corporate sponsors, who were expected to differ majority of the expenses. The group had anticipated support for access to free flights, accommodations, and the equipment that was needed to stage the event.
“The expected local private sector support from both countries Dominica and Antigua, that didn’t really materialise, and so the event was a challenge and it still is a challenge because we would have hoped that whatever monies made would have been able to go towards the people who were most affected, but that was not possible because the support just was not there,” he stressed.
Justin Simon QC, the attorney for the Dominica Antigua Relief Fund, described it as “a burden they had to accept”. Despite the headline artiste reportedly performing free of charge, performance fees and per diem cost DARF $102,655, while airfare and accommodation totaled $166,989.
Simon explained that “The artistes came from overseas, therefore there was hotel accommodations, there was payment for meals and various other items that were requested in respect of entertainment, so that came at a cost, in addition to travel and hotel accommodation. In respect of the main artiste he did not charge any figure so he wasn’t paid for performing but in terms of them being here in Antigua and Barbuda we had to expend monies in respect of their stay.”
“It’s a hard decision” he remarked, as he considered the difference in cost between the actual expenses and the revenue and what DARF had anticipated.
The lawyer agreed that it was unfortunate how waiting so long for the audit had prejudiced the process, a process which they had from the outset, intended to be fully transparent.
“The longer something takes is the more the perception of doubt [and] uncertainty creeps in,” he said, adding: “I think we have this feeling that persons benefit personally from those various charitable undertakings, and because of that persons are very loathe to give anything, or to give much, and I think the question of accountability is very important and that is why DARF decided that right after the concert, let us put everything in the hands of an auditor and let them come forward with respect to a report as to the details of what money was received, from whom and what was spent.”
The audited report was released to the media last Thursday, September 26th, 2019. The audit was conducted by independent chartered accountants BDO and had only been handed over to DARF, two years after the event was staged.