The Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) is proceeding to take the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to court over its failure to provide the calypso body with funding for 2019.
TUCO Tobago zone’s Chairman Ainsley King said he has advised the organization’s attorney to proceed on the matter following the THA's response to its letter of February 1 to Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles requesting that he, Charles, immediately approve and provide its full budgetary releases and allocations for 2019.
This February 1 letter stated that should the THA and/or Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) fail to provide the funds and/or written undertakings within the seven-day deadline, the High Court would be approached immediately for an injunction against the THA and the TFC.
On Friday, King directed Newsday Tobago to speak with TUCO’s attorney Martin George who confirmed that he had received instructions from his clients to proceed with the matter.
“We received a written response from the THA this evening (Friday), however our clients are still disputing most of the contents of that letter and advised us to go ahead in the filing of a High Court matter,” George said.
Newsday Tobago was able to secure a copy of the THA letter which stated that the TFC, acting on behalf of the Assembly, made repeated attempts to engage the client to make arrangements for the disbursement and management of funds for the Carnival 2019 season and for the overall planning for success of the season.
“There is no fixed budgetary release or financial allocation for TUCO from the THA. Over the years, the THA through the TFC, or another committee so mandated, would engage in negotiations with TUCO and other bodies in the Carnival fraternity to decide upon the allocation that would be given for the particular year,” the letter said.
It added that since 2016, the preliminary steps of the process for the release of the funding has been (1) submission of a budget proposal by TUCO (2) negotiation between the THA and TUCO (3) arrival at a consensus on specific expenses or a ceiling sum to be allocated to TUCO.
“Thereafter, the sum is agreed upon would not be given en bloc to your client. The procedure is that TUCO submits pro forma invoices to TFC, TFC issues purchase orders, the service provider provides the service and submits an invoice to TUCO, then TFC pays the service provider directly.
“By letter dated 19th November 2018, the TFC requested a budget submission from TUCO to aid in the timely preparation of the budget and calendar of events for Carnival 2019. In response dated 29 November 2018 (sic) and received on 30 November 2018, TUCO stated that it would not submit its budget to TFC but it would in fact send it to the administrator of the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation in the THA, TUCO submitted a budget estimated at $1,910,200.00,” the letter read, adding that on several occasions the TFC contacted TUCO to arrange a meeting to discuss the budget submission but there had been consistent resistance from TUCO and a constant refusal to meet.
In the February 1 legal letter from TUCO to Charles, which was circulated on social media, attorney George, acting on behalf of TUCO, queried the validity and legality of the TFC which it said, “handles and manages and dispenses and disburses millions of taxpayers’ dollars each and every year with apparently little or no oversight or statutory accountability.”
The letter was copied to TFC Chairman George Leacock, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, TUCO and the executive committee of TUCO’s Tobago zone.
This letter followed a January 25 announcement by the TFC that it will be hosting two calypso tents this Carnival season “to ensure there is an avenue for calypsonians to showcase their artform in Tobago for 2019.”