In part because of faulty recordkeeping in the past, comprehensive financial information about festivals from 2016 to the present is not currently available, according to Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.
Dr. Wheatley made the disclosure during a July 31 House of Assembly meeting while answering questions from Opposition Leader Marlon Penn, who requested the information.
The minister explained that the delay was because the Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee has a new chairman and executive committee, as well as the “record-keeping of past festival committees not being up to acceptable standards.”
Mr. Penn’s inquiry followed a lengthy debate over government transparency in the July 25 HOA meeting prompted by a contract awarded by the VIFFC to At-Large Representative Neville Smith.
“I certainly want to establish a standard of accountability for Festival,” Dr. Wheatley said, adding that he would try to obtain the figures and provide them to the HOA.
Mr. Penn expressed scepticism, claiming that such information has been provided to the House in recent years.
“You’re starting off on an irresponsible footing,” he said.
Dr. Wheatley responded that the VIFFC members were preoccupied with planning this year’s August Emancipation Festival and that past administrations took longer to provide such information.
He added that the opening weekend of this year’s Festival was “the most successful opening weekend in the history of our celebrations.”