The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts is coming under fire once again over the hosting of Carifesta 2019. There are now reports that the ministry owes hundreds of people who provided services to make the festival a success.
One of the artistes contracted to perform, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, told Guardian Media: “Like myself there are hundreds of suppliers who have not been paid for Carifesta ...dancers, artists, musicians, stage tech people, sound people, set designers, costume makers ...everyone who involved in the Carifesta which was 95 per cent human resource effort.”
He said when he was contracted in June, he was assured there would be no late payments. From then he and his fellow artistes went to work and began to prepare for the August 16 start date.
Three months later, they have not been paid.
“Everyone has washed their hand of it, all the people who hired the suppliers,” the artiste said
“The story needs to be aired and vented to the public because it is really preposterous and if you ask me it is a real bureaucratic atrocity that the humble artistes and the people who sweat for weeks in advance of Carifesta to make it what it was that months after they can’t be paid.”
In his own case, the artiste said he is owed $10,000.
“In the face of the irony of the huge party that they threw two and a half months ago with the $4,000 cake, but it wasn’t just that it was premium drinks, catering, etc, you know quite a pat on the back for themselves, the irony is that the artistes still haven’t been paid. What a shame…it’s scandalous.”
Last Thursday night at a PNM public meeting in Barataria, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly boasted about the success of Carifesta 2019.
“I went all over the country during Carifesta time and all of the comments pouring in showed how much national pride our people felt about that festival,” she said.
Gadsby-Dolly said the Ministry was close to making the final payments.
“We put some of the original money for Carifesta into the budget for this fiscal year so we could settle all of those outstanding payments. We knew it would run over because even without best efforts, and we did our best, there were hundreds of invoices coming in September from Carifesta because it was late in August.”
“We had now to ensure that we paid as much as we could pay up to the end of the financial year which was September 30 and then we put it on hold until the budget was being finished debated.”
Approached for comment on the claims by the artiste, the Ministry said in a statement that it is “assiduously working to have all outstanding payments to artistes done with a target of second week December 2019.”
The statement continued: “The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts regrets the inconvenience caused to persons not yet in receipt of payments for services delivered for Carifesta. The staff of the Accounting Unit processed and made as many payments as possible to the last date and time allowed before the closure of the 2018-2019 financial year.
While the 2019-2020 budget has been passed in Parliament, funds are yet to be released to continue payments.”
Padarath on Carifesta
During the committee stage of the Budget debate, Minister Gadsby-Dolly and Princes Town MP Barry Padarath got into a heated confrontation after he raised questions about cost over-runs on Carifesta.
Padarath said: “Madam when I look at the figure it is shocking, it’s shameful and it’s startling because when you look at the 2019 estimate there was $24 million, the revised estimate is $27.462 million, which tells us that there have been cost overruns and this appeared to be a runaway horse. In 2020 you have an estimate of $5 million after the event has already passed.
“The question is in light of the government’s mantra of saving. Why is there an allocation of an addition $5 million for the hosting of Carifesta 2019? Does this reflect cost overruns and outstanding bills of 4 thousand-dollar cakes and cocktail parties?”
To this the Minister replied: “I noticed that the member would have been very busy during this period and I say congratulations to him and I know how it is with young parents so he may have missed the fact that Carifesta was spoken about on numerous occasions in the media at $43 million, so I understand maybe his confusion and I sympathise with him, I remember my days.
“However, the $5 million that is allocated here simply reflects bills that have to be paid. I know the member has not been in government, he does not understand how a ministry would exactly work. However, when events are finished we do have invoices that come in after so this is stated here to clear all of those invoices.”