The private sector should ensure that support for the arts is more than just a PR stunt

Dear Editor,

I note with interest Republic Bank’s sponsorship of the Mashramani Panorama, now in its sixth year according the captioned picture, provided by GINA, and published in the Guyana Times yesterday. Coming out of the fiasco of the Digicel-sponsored National Drama Festival 2013, where roughly 30 persons signed a letter just last month decrying the ministry’s underpaying them by a collective $600,000 out of that private funding, there has not been a single public response from Minister Anthony nor his Permanent Secretary Alfred King, the chief financial officer of his ministry.

Yet, without embarrassment, there is the Minister smilingly collecting another cheque from another private entity for yet another national competitive cultural event.

While I understand the vindictiveness of the PPP in targeting private sector entities that take any sort of moral stand on the rampant corruption that is crippling Guyana, there should be some obligation by the private sector to ensure that support for the arts isn’t simply a big cheque, photo op PR stunt.

 

If it is that monies donated by private companies to public institutions in support of the arts are not placed in responsible and trustworthy hands, then it dilutes or defeats the purpose for which they are intended, and the ministry has proven time and again that it has no sense of accountability with regard to cultural funding.

For example, six years – a full electoral cycle plus one year – have passed and the accounts for Carifesta X have yet to be reconciled, with tens of millions of dollars in budgeted payments still outstanding, and no public audit of how the money was spent.  There has also never been a review coming out of Dr Anthony’s ministry on Guyana’s participation in Carifesta or any Inter-Guiana Cultural Festival, particularly an audited financial report.

Additionally, the Minister has provided not a single shred of evidence either in the public domain or to the National Assembly on the exact expenditure of the Caribbean Press, an entity for which he has promised a Board, but has failed to deliver on.

One would think that he would have been eager to dispel the cloud that surrounds the publication of his daughter’s work by an entity under his effective control, outside of the statement that he paid for the “printing and shipping” of the book.

Parliament and the private sector have collectively failed artists in the monitoring of funds expended on the arts and culture as managed by the government, the ministry in particular.

While the private sector possess no obligation, except perhaps a moral one, to correct this situation, budget time is coming around again, and hence an opportunity to hold the Minister and his support staff, including his Director of Culture, his Permanent Secretary, and his PAS-Finance accountable for how cultural funding is spent in Guyana.

 

Yours faithfully,
Ruel Johnson

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