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Trinidad and Tobago

Published on November 11th, 2016 | by The Trinidad Guardian

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The empty unfinished house in a field

Pan Trinbago’s signature on the national landscape is the dilapidated shell of concrete and steel in Trincity that represents its failed effort at constructing a national headquarters… As with so many projects that Pan Trinbago has overseen, nobody seemed able then or since to explain why millions of dollars allocated to the construction of the building led to nothing at all.

As an NGO stakeholder body occupying tent pole position in the production of Carnival and a cornerstone in the development of national culture for 45 years, Pan Trinbago has found itself mired in far too many accusations of mismanagement and financial malfeasance.

Keith Diaz, the organisation’s current president, refused to respond to allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds within Pan Trinbago after the resignation statements by former vice-president Byron Serrette.

Mr Serrette accused the executive of wildly inappropriate spending and claimed that Pan Trinbago was in debt to the tune of millions of dollars.

It isn’t the first time that executives have left the steelband body over concerns about transparency and integrity.

In July 2012, Beverley Ramsey-Moore and Keith Simpson quit the central executive over concerns about unusual payments, the management of the controversial Pan on the Greens project and the creation of the Africa T&T Steelpan Development Company.

The heat turned up for Pan on the Greens in 2012 after security lapses led to a minor outbreak of violence at the gates to enter the pan-free area.

The project would reach its nadir in February 2014 with the introduction of a massive pool under a new brand, Pan Splash.

Phase II arranger Len Boogsie Sharpe, who has been outspoken about the lapses of the steelband executive, declaring it dead in 2011, was appalled at the project, which mercifully sank like the proverbial stone.

Then, as with Mr Serrette, the president has threatened legal action to silence conversation about the matter and shut his door to the media, going so far as to remove media observers from a meeting held to discuss the departures of Mr Simpson and Ms Ramsey-Moore.

Ms Ramsey-Moore would mount a campaign to replace the steelband executive with her own team in October 2012, but failed to dislodge Mr Diaz.

Pan Trinbago has been the recipient of millions of taxpayer dollars over the course of its existence from the Government, money that was intended to develop the steelband movement.

Yet players routinely fight to be paid for their performances in the Panorama competition. And that isn’t an unusual occurrence with the steelband organising body, nor is it limited to Panorama.

Participants and winners of the Pan is Beautiful XII competition in November 2013 were still unpaid in April 2014 and Pan Trinbago, which had run the event as a for-profit enterprise, was unable to find the money to pay, leaning again on the Government to bail them out of a financial shortfall.

Pan Trinbago’s signature on the national landscape is the dilapidated shell of concrete and steel in Trincity that represents its failed effort at constructing a national headquarters.

Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar promised $7 million in 2011 to complete the structure, which was abandoned as a project a decade and a half ago. Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday gifted the land, worth $9 million, to Pan Trinbago.

As with so many projects that Pan Trinbago has overseen, nobody seemed able then or since to explain why millions of dollars allocated to the construction of the building led to nothing at all.

Transparency and accountability have not been hallmarks of Pan Trinbago’s reign as the public voice of the steelband community, but as an NGO with a lifeline dependency on taxpayer money, it must accept its responsibility to account for the money it is given in the public interest.

The “world governing body for steelband” must demonstrate that it is capable of transparently governing itself.

It would be chilling and deeply disturbing if that skeletal structure, long abandoned and almost forgotten amid the tall grass that surrounds it, stood as a depressingly accurate monument to the dreams of the many dedicated panmen whose hopes gave birth to the steelband movement.


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