NCC owes $78 million to service providers

Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 07:45

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 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