Costly conference - FSC could recoup less than half of the $200m it will spend to host IOSCO
Reports are now surfacing that the Financial Services Commission (FSC) could lose up to $100 million by staging the 42nd annual conference of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) in Montego Bay, St James, next month.
Sunday Gleaner sources say the FSC is to spend some $200 million to stage the IOSCO conference but could recoup less than half that amount.
According to the sources, while the FSC had sold the idea of Jamaica staging the conference on the basis that more than 700 delegates from around the world will attend, so far fewer than 350 delegates have registered.
"The registration period should have closed already but it remains open because the FSC has to grab any last-minute person that it can," a Sunday Gleaner source said late last week.
The registration fee is US$2,200 for IOSCO members, which allows them access to all sessions of the May 14-18 conference, and US$1,100 to non-IOSCO members who will be restricted to the public sessions on the final two days (May 17-18).
"In addition, the FSC is struggling to attract sponsors so it appears that this will be one big money burner," added the source.
According to the information reaching our newsroom, a massive chunk of the FSC's expenditure will be US$700,000 which it will pay to a Brazilian firm to manage and organise the conference.
"That is nearly J$90 million being paid to an events management firm out of Brazil when there are so many excellent event planners in Jamaica. The FSC needs to explain why it went that route, and the word in the industry is that the Brazilian firm initially submitted a contract for US$1.2 million before it was asked to shave something from that," said the source.
Late last week, Executive Director of the FSC Janice Holness admitted that registration would continue after the deadline, which was last Friday, but argued that this was not unusual for IOSCO conferences.
Holness also admitted that the estimated number of visitors to the conference had been revised downwards.
"Going from past conferences, our expectation - since our bid in 2014 - has always been within 700 to 800 based on what Jamaica as a tourism Mecca has to offer.
"There is always a rush towards the last weeks before the conference and so, while at this time we are adjusting to 500, we still hope to attract more," said Holness in an emailed response to The Sunday Gleaner.
According to Holness, the FSC conducted a cost-benefit analysis when it decided to bid to host the conference, but the process is ongoing and it is yet to arrive at dollars and cents.
Holness defended the decision to hire the Brazilian firm, arguing that no local events planner was identified for a conference of this nature.
"The selection of the event planning firm was done in accordance with the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) procurement guidelines.
"After a local expression of interest failed to identify suitable candidates, the procurement guidelines were followed to use the international tender process. The tender was advertised both locally and internationally in keeping with the GOJ guidelines," said Holness.
The FSC boss neither confirmed nor denied the US$700,000 price tag for the Brazilian firm, as she told our news team, "Event planning firms with specialised experience customarily charge a percentage of budget, which is negotiable."
Holness added that the FSC has secured a number of sponsors earning a high of US$250,000 to a low of US$2,000, and is still seeking more, but gave no indication of the total amount to be pulled in from sponsorship.
IOSCO is the international body that sets global standards for the securities sector. Established in 1983, the IOSCO membership regulates 95 per cent of the world's securities market in more than 115 jurisdictions, including major emerging markets.