|Florida celebrations safe from Jamaica 50th dispute|
|Thursday, 02 February 2012 12:03|
Disputes over the Jamaica 50th independence anniversary celebrations are brewing in Jamaica, as new Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, calls for an audit into the funds being used by the Jamaica 50 Secretariat, the organization overseeing this year's celebrations.
Consul General of Jamaica in Miami, Sandra Grant Griffiths, however assures that funding for the independence celebrations for the Jamaica Diaspora in South Florida will not be affected by the audit. Although the official Florida celebrations are registered with the Jamaica 50 Secretariat, the events are not funded by either the Secretariat or the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture in Jamaica.
"The projects in Florida will be funded by private sponsors and community partnerships," the Consul General confirmed to the National Weekly.
On Tuesday Minister Hanna announced that the Jamaica 50 Secretariat would be restructured and reevaluated, citing concerns over the use of public funds allocated to the anniversary events. The new Ministry of Youth and Culture, through its permanent secretary, Robert Martin, requested a special audit by the Auditor General's Department of Jamaica. It has been reported that an estimated J$23 million had already been spent on administrative expenses, salaries, a media launch and a fireworks display for the 2012 New Year's celebrations on the waterfront in Downtown Kingston.
Hanna also stated that an in-depth review of the Secretariat's operations revealed that funding approval did not go through correct government procedures. The approval of several payments "did not follow the prescribed guidelines as per the Financial Administration and Audit Act."
Some 138 celebratory projects were already planned by the previous administration. A review of the budget however show that only J$56 million dollars have been approved for the anniversary celebrations, with not enough funding to cover all the events identified in the former program.
"If the program were not restructured, there was the real risk of it resulting in embarrassment to the Government and the people of Jamaica," said Hanna.
Plans for South Florida's celebrations however fall outside of the Jamaican Ministry's audit control. The Jamaican Consulate in Miami has been involved in planning Jamaica 50th anniversary activities in South Florida.
Plans for these local celebrations will also be released shortly, confirmed Consul General Sandra Grant Griffiths to the National Weekly.
The Jamaica 50 Secretariat registered events showed that anniversary activities are being planned around the world, with 50 activities in Canada, 54 in the US, and 42 in the UK.
Funding decisions were appropriate, says Grange
In response to the findings and the proposed restructuring, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, previous Youth Minister and now Opposition Spokesman on Youth, Sports, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Culture, said in a release that the anniversary program was on the right track when she left office in December, following the defeat of the Jamaica Labor Party government in the 2011 general elections.
She has accused the new government of "vindictiveness" and "rancor" in the manner it questioned the planning and spending of the funds to date for the anniversary celebrations. She is confident the decisions made were appropriate, and the funds were efficiently and effectively used by the Secretariat.
A representative of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, asking to remain anonymous, told the National Weekly that he was confident that after the "restructuring and streamlining" of the Secretariat and the general anniversary program, Jamaicans could be confident of receiving "the kind and quality of celebratory activities fitting for this significant national anniversary, while realistic activities bearing in mind Jamaica's financial constraints."
|Last Updated on Friday, 03 February 2012 14:19|