Culture Minister Frank Anthony has said that renovating the National Cultural Centre (NCC) could cost up to $80 million, while lamenting that the facility has not been earning.
“We have to fund all these things. If the centre was making money we could have been able to invest this money. We have to now find money from our budget to do this and to do all this that I have spoken on we would be spending close to $80M on the centre,” he said at his end of year press conference last Friday.
Last year, the ministry was urged by the NCC Director Godfrey Naughton to help pay its utility bills. Naughton had said that the NCC was “up to its neck” in expenses and that producers were being chased away by the high cost of renting the centre.
Speaking at the awards ceremony for the National Drama Festival, he had also complained that the state of the NCC was affecting the practical work of students at National Drama School—which is housed in NCC—and that the platform used for performance needed improvement.
He had also talked about the poor lighting and sound conditions that actors were forced to worked under and he labeled them outdated.
Anthony, however, argued that the centre was already funded by the ministry. “While producers may complain about how much it costs to use the centre, we are actually subsidising the centre and I think people should understand that. We have difficulties at the cultural centre and one of these includes the air conditioning,” he noted.
He lamented that when the air conditioning is turned on to cool the building, it would be costly and charges to host events would be spent back on paying electricity bills. “When you turn on the air conditioning in the National Cultural Centre to cool that entire place it is costly and sometimes the $80,000 or $70,000 that we charge has to be spent again on the electricity bills. People don’t take this into consideration and if we are to implement market rates I don’t know how many of the producers will be able to afford it,” he added.
According to Anthony, the old AC system has to be replaced by a new one. “We had some advertisements out for invitation for bids from contractors to replace the AC system. We had one contractor who came in and the estimate was too high so we have nullified that bid and we went to the tender board and asked if we can do selective tendering. We did this and we gave several companies a timeline. So far, we got two bids and we are evaluating those,” he said, while noting that air conditioning contract would cost at minimum $56 million.