Your questions are legitimate and balanced except for the last point about political hijacking. If you look at the Saint Lucia National Trust Act (available on our website www.slunatrust.org) you will see the names of the persons who were appointed by Premier John Compton to create the organisation and will realise that they are from both political parties. Therefore, the organisation is a product of a bi-partisan effort. We do not discriminate when accepting members, neither do we prevent members from speaking at our membership meetings on political grounds. Membership to the Trust empowers you to speak to any aspect of the Trust’s mandate (Section 4 of the Act) and to influence, and give direction on how we handle issues. More importantly, perhaps is that membership to the Trust is secondary to constitutional rights.
You have done a good analysis of the funds generated by the Trust since its creation. Note, however, that the funds generated (you mentioned 2016) includes the subvention we receive from the Government. Since 2000, $200,000 of the subvention we received was for the Pigeon Island redevelopment. We have these funds in reserve for the project. It was not used to fund our operations.
Allow me to respond to your specific questions:
- The Trust is an organ of the State and as such receives support from the State to help fund its operations. This was the intention from the beginning. If you look at the Trust’s mandate (Section 4 of the Act) you will see the words “for the benefit of the State” referenced a few times. This was the thinking that created the organisation and at the time it was the intention to provide this support with the understanding that over time there would be phased reductions as the organisation becomes financially capable of meeting its obligations on its own. This is why the Trust’s subvention, which started at $1m, was reduced to $750, 000 and then $500,000. These reductions were the result of consultations with the Government and based on financial programmatic considerations. We are trying to get approval for some investments that would improve our income, but approval is stalled.
- The Trust’s audit reports and annual reports are made available to our members annually both via email and on our website in the members’ area. They are also submitted to the Para Statal Monitoring Unit and laid before Parliament. In terms of financial management, we have very strict protocols under which staff makes quarterly budget requests to Council based on an approved work programme which is based on our Strategic Plan (also on our website) and must account for the funds when making subsequent quarterly budgetary requests.
- On the matter of salaries, I am not at liberty to divulge what we pay staff. I can say, however, that our salary structure is based on the public sector salary scale. For example, if we hire technical staff they will be appointed at some point between the equivalent of Government’s grade 10 – 16, based on qualifications and experience. We also follow an increment scale based on the public sector model.
- The $6.4 million is not for a conference facility (events centre) only. The project includes a gift shop, reconstruction of Admiral Rodney’s home to accommodate out offices, documentation centre and interpretation centre, converting the officers’ mess into an events centre, upgrading the Captains Cellar into a full restaurant and reconstruction of the gatehouse and security building. A lot to do, but will be done on a phased basis to minimise interruptions and/or negative impacts. Last year we hosted over 100 events at Pigeon Island but we do not have a covered space in case of rains. The facility will be used for both events and conferences to maximise income.
- With regards to the 2013 dolphin proposal, the facts are as follows: In 2013 there was a Cabinet conclusion granting approval in principle for the land use, pending the submission of the application. We did not see the cabinet conclusion until it was leaked in March this year – therefore we could not have commented at the time. A pronouncement was made in the 2014 budget as a project to come on stream. We did not comment on the budget address, as it is not something the Trust does. At the time we were on the DCA Board and would have been involved in determining the application. However, no application reached the DCA, therefore, there was nothing to comment on. Had the application been submitted, we would have referred it to our members for guidance, as we have done with the current application.
With regards to the boat, I assure you that except once, when we first received the boat, two members of council and I accompanied the Marine Police for its first run, no member of the Council has been on the boat thereafter personal reasons. The boat has been on dry dock because it was costing us more to take the boat from Rodney bay to Vieux Fort and back than to rent a boat in Vieux Fort to do our monitoring work. In the mean time we pay rent to keep the boat in dry dock and insurance. The decision to sell the vessel was purely economic.
I trust I was able to allay the concerns you have. We invite you as a patriotic Saint Lucian to join the Trust and help to fulfil the organization’s mandate as an active member.
Saint Lucia National Trust