Festival report promised in weeks

The content originally appeared on: The BVI Beacon

Following August Emancipation Festival events held for the first time in three years, Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee Chairman Dirk Walters said that the organisation is already drafting a financial report that will be ready “within the next couple of weeks.”

“Once we receive the various reports from all the different subcommittees and we put all the financials together, then that will be made public, of course,” Mr. Walters said during an interview with JTV.

The last festival report — covering 2019 events — was laid on the table of the House of Assembly in June 2020 by then- Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.

Prior to that, government had failed to provide legally mandated annual reports on festival spending for three years.

Still, the 72-page document presented by Dr. Wheatley didn’t detail who received money or how they were chosen.

According to the 2005 VI Festivals and Fairs Committee Act, the committee is required to record its financial transactions and to submit a report to the leading minister within three months of the end of each financial year.

The minister is then required to lay the report before the legislature, thereby making the report public.

$500k from gov’t

During his interview on Saturday with JTV, Mr. Walters affirmed that the committee received $500,000 from the government to execute events for this year, as well as donations, contributions, and sponsorships from “stakeholders” and “other companies,” including the BVI Tourist Board.

“A lot of things are done without money. Relationships are the biggest currency on earth,” he said. “We were able to get a lot of things done based on relationships, even without speaking money. Everyone for the most part, understood or understands where we are.”

Fundraising committee

An official fundraising committee is being formed to help offset costs that fell onto the shoulders of the public, including entry fees that were up to $40 per person for village events, he said. This year is Mr. Walters’s first chairing the committee. Prior to that, Carnel Clyne resigned from the position in 2019, and Co-Chair Khalid Frett served as acting chair.

But events in 2020 and 2021 were dramatically scaled back because of the Covid-19 pandemic.