Appeal to rein in TEF spending
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE PUBLIC Administration and Appropriations Committee has recommended to the House of Representatives that steps be taken to strengthen the monitoring of expenditure by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
The Wykeham McNeill-chaired committee, which examined expenditure in the Ministry of Tourism, stopped short of calling the spending of TEF monies reckless. The committee also expressed concerns that the TEF is being used to supplement the budget of the tourism ministry.
In a report tabled in the House on Tuesday, the McNeill committee called for a "five- or 10-year plan with clearly articulated aims and measurable objectives" to be developed for the TEF.
Warning that the TEF could collapse if steps are not taken to ensure its viability, the committee said it should not be used to supplement the budget of the Ministry of Tourism, which had its allocation reduced by $14.1 million in the revised budget.
"Our inquiries revealed that the reduction in planned programmes and activities was not proportional to the sums of money that had become unavailable as a result of budget cuts," the committee said in its report to the House.
The committee noted that it was informed that the cut in the various budgets within the tourism ministry would be offset by contributions from the TEF. The McNeill committee did not like the idea.
"We would like to express a strong desire that the TEF not be used as a supplement to or a substitute for the Consolidated Fund as regards the activities of the Ministry of Tourism," the report said.
The act establishing the TEF authorises it to collect fees from incoming airline and cruise passengers. The money is to be used to enhance Jamaica's tourism product.
The McNeill committee noted that the fund garners $2 billion annually, but at present, there were commitments amounting to $3.5 billion, including support to the Jamaica Tourist Board and Jamaica Vacations.
Meanwhile, the committee expressed concern about the way in which TEF funds were used in the sponsorship of events.
"We were disturbed by the fact that a single show, the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, would receive US$500,000 (J$44 million) while the second largest sponsorship figure (from the TEF) was $76,000.
"Your committee, therefore, recommends that this sponsorship be reviewed and that persons who benefit from government funds in the staging of private events be required to undertake activities that will help to compensate the cost of such sponsorship to the public purse," the report to the House of Representatives read.