The Cayman Islands government will have spent some $10.4 million between July 2010 and June 2015 subsidizing various heritage sites run by the Tourism Attraction Board, if this year’s budget projections are accurate.
According to financial records reviewed by the Cayman Compass for the past five years, the public sector subsidy paid to operate Pedro St. James, the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, annual Pirates Week Festival events, the waterfront craft market and the Hell attraction in West Bay has hovered around $2 million per year.
In the 2010/11 budget, $2.2 million was spent to operate those attractions, in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 years about $2.09 million was spent in each budget, in 2013/14 the budget was reduced to around $2.04 million and in the current budget the amount paid to operate the attractions is expected to come to $1.96 million.
The amounts listed in each of the years for the heritage site is considered the cost to government, or the subsidy for running each of the attractions or events.
In the current 2014/15 fiscal year, the spending proposed for each attraction managed by the Tourism Attraction Board is as follows: $865,100 for Pedro St. James; $656,844 for the management of the botanic park; $275,052 for the annual Pirates Week festivals and events; $125,111 for the management of the Cayman Islands Craft Market; and $30,106 for the management of the Hell attraction.
A recently-released audit for the Tourism Attraction Board noted that the board would continue to require annual assistance from government “for the foreseeable future.”
“The Tourism Attraction Board also relies on the Cayman Islands government to provide or arrange long-term finance for capital development projects,” the audit for the government’s 2011/12 financial year states. “Insurance coverage for assets of the historic sites and the Pirates Week Festival managed under the Tourism Attraction Board is provided through the Cayman Islands government.”
Among the operations managed at the historic sites include gift shops at Pedro St. James, the botanic park and the Pirates Week gift shop.
However, government auditors noted that there is a lack of adequate controls over revenue transactions at both the Pirates Week shop and the botanic park.
“Additionally, several income transactions were not recorded in the financial statements as a result of the omission of two bank accounts, as result, I am unable to opine on the completeness and accuracy of gross revenues totaling $831,005,” Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick noted in his qualified opinion on the 2011/12 audit, which was released in Legislative Assembly this month.
The two bank accounts noted in the qualified opinion totaled $42,765 and were excluded from the board’s records, auditors stated, making the entity’s ultimate cash balances unverifiable.
The roughly $2 million each budget year spent toward the management of tourism attractions represents a small percentage of the overall public sector subsidy paid to various entities.
According to the 2014/15 budget, the government will pay more than $94 million in subsidies, referred to as “outputs to government companies and statutory authorities.” Another $22.7 million is scheduled to go to outputs [payments] to non-governmental organizations.
Overall, the government subsidy to other public sector agencies has been reduced significantly in recent years. In the 2012/13 budget, just two years ago, the total public sector subsidy stood at $111 million.