Trinidad: Ministry buys $4,000 cake to celebrate CARIFESTA but workers claim they lack basic office supplies

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Trinidad: Ministry buys $4,000 cake to celebrate CARIFESTA but workers claim they lack basic office supplies
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly in attendance at the gala premiere of Taxi Cab Confessions.Queen’s Hall courtesy Fareid Carvalho
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly in attendance at the gala premiere of Taxi Cab Confessions. Queen’s Hall courtesy Fareid Carvalho

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Ques­tions are now be­ing raised about the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment, Cul­ture and the Arts’ (MCD­CA) de­ci­sion to fork out $4,000 on a cake while min­istry work­ers claim they had been fac­ing prob­lems in the re­cent past to get ba­sic of­fice sup­plies.

The 32 x 40-inch sponge cake was dec­o­rat­ed with the CAR­IFES­TA Trinidad and To­ba­go lo­go and was the main fea­ture at the thank-you re­cep­tion for vol­un­teers host­ed by the min­istry on Thurs­day night at the Na­tion­al Acad­e­my for the Per­form­ing Arts.

The cost of the cake was con­firmed by an em­ploy­ee of the Kiss Bak­ing Com­pa­ny, which got the con­tract to bake the dessert.

Guardian Me­dia was told that some mem­bers of staff who were present at the func­tion were tak­en aback and even up­set by the size and cost of the cake, while oth­er guests mar­velled at its size and took self­ies to cap­ture the mo­ment.

One at­tendee said that in her speech, Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment, Cul­ture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gads­by-Dol­ly stat­ed that they were “all a part of some­thing big, so let’s par­take of some­thing big,” in ref­er­ence to CAR­IFES­TA and the cake. CAR­IFES­TA XIV was held be­tween Au­gust 16 to 25 and it cost $43 mil­lion for this coun­try to host the event.

Well placed sources said on Thurs­day as the min­istry cel­e­brat­ed the suc­cess of the event, there was a cut­ting cer­e­mo­ny in­volv­ing the min­is­ter and John Arnold, pres­i­dent of the Copy­right Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Trinidad and To­ba­go, and then guests were in­vit­ed to par­take.

In ad­di­tion to the $4,000 cake, guests were treat­ed to a va­ri­ety of food choic­es. On the menu, there was pastelles, fruit and fresh sal­ads, In­di­an del­i­ca­cies, soups, pas­tries, etc. There were three bar sta­tions with a very wide range of liquor and oth­er drinks. Ef­forts to con­firm the cost of the en­tire event were un­suc­cess­ful.

Guardian Me­dia Con­tact­ed PriceS­mart which al­so bakes cakes. An em­ploy­ee told us that the biggest cake they pro­duce is a full sheet (18X24X2 inch­es) and that costs $320. This size of cake serves 80 to 100 peo­ple, PriceS­mart said.

An em­ploy­ee of the min­istry who was un­der­stand­ably up­set at the wastage and who re­quest­ed anonymi­ty said be­fore CAR­IFES­TA XIV there was a lack of ba­sic sup­plies for staff to car­ry out their jobs. “Even pa­per clips we didn’t have,” the em­ploy­ee said.

The em­ploy­ee ex­plained that work­ers are now us­ing sup­plies left­over from CAR­IFES­TA.

In March of this year, the staff of the NWRHA (North­West Re­gion­al Health Au­thor­i­ty) re­ceived a memo warn­ing them about their toi­let pa­per us­age, while in May em­ploy­ees of NALIS (Na­tion­al Li­brary and In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem Au­thor­i­ty) were in­formed to bring their own toi­let pa­per and toi­let sup­plies due to a short­age of funds.

Ques­tions to the min­is­ter:

Ques­tions were posed to the min­is­ter via What­sApp about the event and the cake in ques­tion one day af­ter the event—on Fri­day.

What was the na­ture of the event? Who was your core guest list? Where was the event held? What was the cost to host the event? What was the cost of the very large cake that was fea­tured at the event? Who pro­vid­ed the cake? How were the size and spec­i­fi­ca­tions ar­rived at? Where did the mon­ey come from to host this event?

The min­is­ter did not re­spond to the ques­tions sent via What­sApp, al­though she read the mes­sage.

Min­istry re­sponds:

On Sat­ur­day, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­part­ment of the min­istry sent an email re­sponse: “MCD­CA hails Self­less Ser­vice of Staff and Vol­un­teers at CAR­IFES­TA XIV,” with­out once men­tion­ing the cake or cost.

“CAR­IFES­TA XIV has been hailed by the re­gion as one of, if not the most suc­cess­ful edi­tion of the fes­ti­val held since in­cep­tion. The Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ty De­vel­op­ment, Cul­ture and the Arts would like to thank the Host Coun­try Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee, the CAR­IFES­TA Sec­re­tari­at, and all mem­bers of staff of the Min­istry who went above and be­yond the call of du­ty to de­liv­er this fes­ti­val with ex­cel­lence.

“We were al­so for­tu­nate enough to have over 300 vol­un­teers who of­fered their ser­vices freely, op­er­at­ing at dif­fer­ent lev­els be­fore and dur­ing the event, con­tribut­ing great­ly to its suc­cess and ef­fi­cient im­ple­men­ta­tion. With­out their crit­i­cal in­put, CAR­IFES­TA XIV would not have been the suc­cess that it was. All told, each of these vol­un­teers would have giv­en, on av­er­age, over 100 hours of un­paid ser­vice to their coun­try in the pe­ri­od lead­ing up to and through­out CAR­IFES­TA XIV; at the air­port, in the Grand Mar­ket, at per­form­ing spaces, at Com­mu­ni­ty fes­ti­vals, cre­ative zones, as­sist­ing with pro­to­col arrange­ments—no area was left un­touched.

“With the self­less and pa­tri­ot­ic ser­vice of staff and vol­un­teers in mind, num­ber­ing well over 500 peo­ple, the min­istry held an ap­pre­ci­a­tion event at NA­PA on Thurs­day, 26th Sep­tem­ber 2019, where cer­tifi­cates of com­men­da­tion were dis­trib­uted to staff and vol­un­teers, and thanks were prof­fered to those who so self­less­ly gave of their time to make Trinidad and To­ba­go proud.

“We were hap­py to have our CAR­IFES­TA XIV brand am­bas­sadors, Neval and Nishard, as well as Nailah Black­man, vol­un­teer their time to pro­vide live en­ter­tain­ment and toast these pa­tri­ots, many of whom were young per­sons that sim­ply want­ed to be a part of mak­ing CAR­IFES­TA XIV the best it could be. The cer­tifi­cates were well re­ceived, as a badge of ho­n­our for ser­vice ren­dered. We hold up the vol­un­teerism of these pa­tri­ots, in­clud­ing our staff, as one of the best ex­am­ples of self­less ser­vice which, if em­u­lat­ed, will re­dound to the ben­e­fit of this na­tion we all hold dear.”

Econ­o­mist: More thought should have gone in­to spend­ing so much for a cake

At least one econ­o­mist said more thought should have gone in­to spend­ing such a large fee for a cake.

Dr In­dera Sage­wan-Al­li said the econ­o­my of Trinidad and To­ba­go was not very healthy at this time.

“A pur­chase such as this, in the con­text of the dif­fi­cul­ties that peo­ple are hav­ing with re­spect to find­ing jobs or keep­ing jobs, the fear fac­tor that ex­ists in the so­ci­ety with re­spect to ek­ing out a very ba­sic liv­ing out of it.

“This is more in line with a lev­el of con­sump­tion that we can no longer af­ford. Gov­ern­ment re­al­ly has a re­spon­si­bil­i­ty to lead the charge and to lead the way in help­ing the wider so­ci­ety to make the nec­es­sary ad­just­ments for times like this such as this re­quires.

“This does not re­flect a gov­ern­ment lead­ing the way wand point­ing the way of how we should be spend­ing in dif­fi­cult times,” Sage­wan-Al­li said.

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