It is time for change in the way the government doles out money for the various festivals such as the Crucian Festival, the St. John Festival and V.I. Carnival. I made the suggestion before and I believe it is time I repeat it, now that the Legislature's Finance Committee is attempting, finally, to exercise its statutory responsibility of oversight over the use of public funds.
For years the Senate have been donating monies to different organizations with little or no oversight on how the monies are spent. That is poor stewardship of the public funds by the Legislature. I do not question the Finance Committee's motive and determination to question the V.I. Carnival Committee's use of money donated to it. The examination should include all organizations that receive public money. Maybe it would be wise that the Senate legislate the requirement, if it does not already exist, that all organizations receiving public funds should submit an audited report to the Senate of the use of the funds.
I do not think there is need to reinvent the wheel. When the territory receives federal funds, are there not strings attached — certain conditions to be met, or the money has to be paid back if is not used according to conditions set forth in the granting of the funds? It is called accountability, a concept that seems foreign to our politicians.
Better late than never, goes an old saying, so I welcome the Finance Committee efforts to find out how public monies have been spent. But the Carnival Committee is showing contempt of the Legislature, and I am not sure the Legislature has the courage and the wisdom to act in a way that will regain the confidence and respect of the public, to include the Carnival Committee.
My suggestion is that we, the people, through our representatives in the Legislature, change the way we grant monies to the various festivals. We live in a capitalist society, and as such the main objectives of most of our activities is to generate profit. Unfortunately, too many persons have sought to avoid certain fiscalization by using the non-profit status. What is wrong in having an enterprise that makes a profit?
I would suggest to our senators once more that we be realistic, be fair, be progressive, be innovative. It is time that we open up the festivals to competitive bidding. That is the typical American way — competition, may the best one win. The Legislature should set up some basic criteria for proponents to compete for the limited funds available for such activities.
I believe that franchising the festivals and such public activities is the best way to go, because it would generate money for the government up front instead of the government having to dole out funds. And by being competitive, the festivals would have to respond to the market, to the public preferences; thus improvements are automatic, normally.
There could be a transition phase by combining private capital and public participation. Take the monkey off the public's back; let us be competitive, let us have bidding for the rights to conduct the festivals, and let them be profitable endeavors, not charities. Make profit the incentive and all can gain and the quality will improve. Once a private, for-profit enterprise has the franchise, the Senate will not need to intervene. Reports will then be submitted to the Lieutenant Governor's Office and the Internal Revenue Bureau, as is required of all corporations.
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