Legislator Ezzard Miller said he will be asking two investigatory bodies to look into the finances of the North Side District Committee and its use of public funds.
This follows a Pirates Week Office announcement last week that district day activities planned for 14 Nov. in North Side had been cancelled.
“Given the continuing financial reporting failures of the Pirates Week Committee in North Side, I would be asking the Auditor General to look into the use of public funds by the North Side Pirates Week Committee. I will further be reporting the matter to the Anti-Corruption Commission for investigation into whether there has been any misuse of public funds,” North Side MLA Miller said in a letter to the Cayman Compass Tuesday.
The Pirates Week Office said in a statement that the North Side District Heritage Committee, which is responsible for making the necessary arrangements for its Pirates Week festivities, had become inactive.
Miller said that he will be requesting the national Pirates Week Office confirm receipt of adequate, proper and complete accounts from the North Side District Council for all funds received by the council to assist the district’s Pirates Week Committee in 2018.
In his letter, Miller said he was only made aware last week of the situation with the district’s Pirates Week preparations when he was contacted by the Pirates Week Office.
“Explaining the situation, the Pirates Week Office disclosed that [it] had not received an entry for the district for the float parade and that, from all appearances, arrangements for the district’s observance in the usual Heritage Day event were not in train,” Miller said.
He said when the Pirates Week Office asked for his help, he enquired as to the problem.
“I was told that the office could not advance the funds because, yet again, proper accounts, other than a spreadsheet with no supporting documentation, had not been submitted by the Pirates Week Committee,” he said.
Miller said he was “concerned, disappointed and somewhat embarrassed” that, for the first time since its inception, Pirates Week would not be formally observed in North Side.
Miller said this is not the first time that financial issues had arisen with the committee.
He said when he assumed elected office in 2009, he established the North Side District Council, which subsequently assumed the management of the Pirates Week Committee.
In 2012, the then-tourism minister transferred the district’s Pirates Week Committee from the ambit of the North Side District Council, he said, and appointed Jay Ebanks to the committee’s chairmanship. Ebanks left the committee in 2016.
Miller said that, in 2017 and 2018, the North Side Pirates Week Committee had difficulties securing advances from the Pirates Week Office for the district’s float and Heritage Day activities because of failures in the provision of proper accounting.
The District Council, he said, stepped up and, with his support, received the requested funding from the Pirates Week Office for the district’s Pirates Week Committee. The District Council, he said, submitted documentation of spending from the funds disbursed by the Pirates Week Office.
Responding to Miller’s comment, Ebanks, who is no longer chairman of the Pirates Week Committee, told the Compass that there was no impropriety involved.
“I am confident in my team and all records that we have and, at the end of the day, everything will be fine. We have done nothing wrong. We will be publishing our financial records for 2016 for everyone to see. I’m disappointed in the Pirates Week Office that they would allow this to go on when they know better,” Ebanks said in an emailed response.
Miller and Ebanks were competing candidates for the North Side constituency in the 2017 elections, which Miller won.