Government takes 2015 allocation to payoff 2014 debt
Bands and service providers for the 2015/2016 Carnival season that are waiting to be paid will have to wait a bit longer, the government says.
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said the funds are not available because ‘substantial sums of monies’ that were set aside for payment had to be used to liquidate the 2014 Carnival debt.
For weeks, labor leaders have complained about the nonpayment for services to make the Carnival successful. At the same time, the opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour party has joined in wondering at the length of time to the government to pay the bills.
Dr. Harris at his monthly press briefing Wednesday, April 20, tried to clear up the issue when a media representative posed the question to him.
The Prime minister explained that available funds were used to pay off the 2014 Carnival debt. Even though additional funds were allocated by the Government of National Unity in the 2016 budget, the money ran short. He said his government is now setting up a mechanism within the Ministry of Finance to correct the problem by monitoring expenditures and providing reliable accounting and reporting.
The Government of national Unity had budgeted $6.4 million fr recurrent expenditures to cover the cost of Carnival activities, The Observer understands. This is the same administration that criticized the SKNLP for failing to pay bands in a timely manner in the past. Dr. Harris assured the press that the government was committed to cover all the expenses and will pay what is owed.
Earlier this month, Minister of Culture Shawn Richards had told a local media agency that he could not provide a date when payment would be paid since there is a process that must be followed. A request for submission must be made to the Cabinet and then submitted to the Finance Ministry. He said the submission has been made and it must now go to the Cabinet. Hopefully, he added, the government will soon be in a position to make payment.
Carnival Chairman Noah Mills got into the act by telling reporters he had met with the service providers and arrived at a figure to cover the costs.
He added, ‘We would have gone through and delivered Carnival for 75 percent of the original budget. We would have then submitted a requisition to the Government requesting that the monies be released to settle cash prizes and incentives. That was done in February where it was released after we submitted it in January.’
As it stands, no official date has been earmarked for the final payment to the Carnival workers.