Business Day Editorial: Get Carnival funding right

It is absurd, almost laughable, that the National Carnival Commission (NCC) is demanding accountability from its members and related parties when it can barely do the same.

This year, the NCC has been allocated $139 million for the entire year (with anticipated expenditure of $145 million), and at least $89 million of that will go towards the lead up to and execution of Carnival 2019. How the NCC spends that money is unclear. As the statutory body, mandated by an Act of Parliament to oversee and manage the organisation of “the greatest show on earth”, the NCC’s system seems woefully ad hoc and devoid of meaningful consultation with its stakeholders.

There is no clear system for the disbursement of funds, and it seems every year, just weeks before Carnival as various bodies dependent on NCC funding clamour for their money, the NCC falls back on its tried and true excuse, that it must wait on Government to give them the money first.

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The fault then, must be on Government. But the Ministry of Finance, in a release earlier this week, noted that when requests are made, they are generally honoured, and released in a timely manner. The first request for Carnival was made on January 10 for $25 million. It was released 14 days later. The second request was on February 11 for just under $74 million. The NCC received $25 million the next day, and on February 18, a further $38 million. Out of its total request for about $99 million, the NCC has been granted $89 million. The ministry did not say why the last $10 million wasn’t yet delivered, or if it will be, but it stands to reason that it would still need time to process the requests.

If that’s the case, the onus is on the NCC to put in an application. Carnival happens around the same time every year. Most of the NCC’s events have been part of the Carnival calendar for decades. This is not new. This is not extraordinary. These are things that in the almost 30 years since the NCC was incorporated, the body should have figured out by now. Why then, less than two months before Carnival Monday and Tuesday, was the NCC only just requesting money from Government?

Which brings the conversation back to accountability. Does the NCC not have a system and a budget based on a historical system? Is there no consultation with stakeholders to get a true feel of what is needed? Yes, times are hard and the economy is tough, but while the NCC is demanding its dependants to account or be defunded, it is yet to prove why it deserves the significant allocation it already gets. How does the NCC make money? How does the NCC spend money? How does it determine which body gets how much? Most recently it was the regional carnivals that faced the brunt of NCC censure, but their allocation is miniscule – just $2 million distributed among 50 bodies. Meanwhile, Pan Trinbago, TUCO and NCBA continue to make headlines for gross mismanagement and wastage of funds while at the same time commanding the lion’s share of NCC allocations.

These bodies are funded by taxpayers. Arbitrary requests for vast sums of money in the interest of culture is not good enough. They are not entitled to government funding. The NCC needs to make its case and, instead of blaming Government on one extreme and small regional bodies on the other, it needs to face up to its own shortcomings. There needs to be transparency and accountability starting from the top. TT has been in this business for too long to keep getting Carnival funding so wrong.

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Source: Newsday https://newsday.co.tt/2019/02/21/business-day-editorial-get-carnival-funding-right/

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