The National Carnival Commission (NCC) has racked up a debt of $78 million in the last two years.
The revelation was made before a Public Accounts Committee meeting chaired by Dr Bhoe Tewarie, as they examined officials of the NCC on the expenditure and internal controls for the periods 2010 to 2018.
Appearing before the committee at the J Hamilton Maurice Room, Parliament Building, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday were NCC’s chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters and its CEO Colin Lucas, Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and Auditor General’s department officials.
In his opening statement, Tewarie expressed concern that the NCC had not been meeting its statutory requirements, and as a result had a number of unaudited accounts outstanding.
Angela Edwards, Permanent Secretary in the ministry admitted that NCC’s lack of audited financial statements was a major challenge in identifying their gaps, weaknesses and internal controls.
NCC has forwarded its 2012 draft accounts to the Auditor General, while they are still finalising the financial records for the years 2013 to 2017.
The committee heard that NCC has no internal auditor, but a consultant who prepares their financial statements. But Lucas assured the Committee that this will be rectified as they intended to retain accounting staff.
Peters admitted that NCC’s biggest headache was not receiving Government funding on time, which encumbers the State-owned organisation.
“As a result of that, I have inherited recurring backlog of expenditure that you have to use from this year to finance the next year and the next year to finance the year before. The only constraints we have is the lateness with the disbursement of funds. Carnival is the best diversification tool that we could have in this country if we use it as such. We have to look at Carnival as a gross foreign exchange earner. They can’t see that? How long are we trying to get that across? The time has come for us to do that. If we don’t spend the money... you only get out of life what you put into it,” Peters complained.
Peters said if things continued the way they are, T&T would be put into a situation where we would be doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result.
He lamented that there was no way NCC can market T&T’s Carnival internationally given the financial position they currently face.
Tewarie enquired from Peters what was NCC’s current debt, to which acting financial manager Nigel Williams revealed that it was $78 million.
In 2018, Williams said NCC had racked up a debt of $34.9 million, while this year the figure stood at $44 million.
“Half of that debt that he (Williams) is talking about is owed to providers....people who provide us from year to year and they have to wait until next year to get this year’s money. This is a carry-over debt for years....it is accumulative,” Peters said.
Peters said because the NCC lives in constant debt, it ties his “hands, feet and brain. It limits our capacity to make Carnival a better product.”
NCC which is the governing body for Carnival was allocated $139 million for this year’s Carnival, which was $9 million less in 2018.
Peters said it would be wishful thinking if the Government were to wipe out NCC’s debt, given the country’s financial constraints.
“We are never going to get it (debt cleared). NCC has to try and balance itself with the money that we have here and continue to try and invest in certain things that would bring money back to the NCC directly and that is the way we would be able to have some little money to pay off some of our debts during the course of the year and not depend on the Government,” Peters said.
- Shaliza Hassanali