The Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committee (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly Thursday finally adopted the annual activity report and audited financial statements of the National Centre of Arts and Culture (NCAC) for the year ended 2011.
The first report was outrightly rejected by the committee for being scanty, thus ordering the institution to present a detailed report within a specific period. NCAC was established by an Act of Parliament in December 1989 (NCAC Act of December 1989), now superseded by the NCAC Act of December 2003.
Its mandate among other things is to advise the minister on matters relating to arts and culture, and in particular, on matters relating to national languages, the creative and performing arts, monuments and relics, research and documentation, science and indigenous technology and sports recreation; to promote and develop Gambian arts and culture; implement, monitor, co-ordinate and evaluate artistic and cultural programme in The Gambia and promote artistic and cultural co-operation at regional and international levels.
In his presentation, Baba Ceesay, the director general of the NCAC, revealed that the Centre's financial situation is precarious and needs urgent government intervention for it to be redeemed. DG Ceesay said the government subvention is no longer sufficient for salaries/personal emoluments.
His words: "Revenue generation is highly dependent on tourist inflow, ie seasonal. With debt portfolio that attracts interest in some cases and high impact interventions continuing to be over-reliant on outside assistance, the NCAC's financial situation is precarious and needs urgent redemption from government." He lamented that the situation is also plagued by myriad problems relating to space, with an old and dilapidated national museum serving as its headquarters and limited accommodation for its ever growing archival collections.
"Lack of mobility to meet nationwide constituents and conduct outreach programmes also minimise the institution's effectiveness," Ceesay further told the Committee, stressing that the Centre needs a huge injection of resources or increased priority rating in the government's agenda with international partners to meet growing expectations of the public and satisfy its broad mandate. However, he said the mere provision of funds is not in itself sufficient unless staffs are sufficiently motivated to spend the funds constructively.
He continued: "The institution continues to make appreciable progress despite its immense financial challenges. During the year under review, some major strategy reorientations have been undertaken and have yielded encouraging results, albeit the constraints mentioned earlier which still needs to be addressed."
DG Ceesay said with no financial subsidy from government, new senior staff have been appointed to address the chronic human resource constraints of the institution. The new staff, he said, have certainly reinvigorated the institution as witnessed by the increased activities and positive press coverage of the institution in recent times. He said the effectiveness of the NCAC is compromised by inadequate staff in terms of number and qualification.
DG Ceesay went on to state that due to the acute lack of cultural infrastructure such as national theatre or national art gallery, the NCAC is now focusing on partnership with institutions and individuals which have such facilities at their disposal. "In this regard, memorandum of understandings has been signed with the Alliance Franco-Banjul as well as Ebunja Theatre, both of whom have facilities that are indispensable for showcasing the works of artists, especially in the creative and performing arts domains," he said.
He disclosed that international partnerships continue to be the main source of funding for the realisation of major programmes and interventions in the cultural sector. "Of particular importance in this regard is UNESCO intervention for the rehabilitation of monuments and sites such as Fort Bullen, and WIPO for a study on the economic impact of the copyright-related industries in The Gambia," Ceesay added.
On the NCAC's source of funding, DG Ceesay said in 2011, the total amount received as government subvention was D3M, adding that the current year's allocation is D2.8M, reflecting a decrease of about 6% from the 2011 subvention. "Basically the subvention is meant to cater for salaries and personal emoluments. As at now, the NCAC subsidises salary monthly. This subsidy comes from the revenue generated which we are allowed to keep and plough back into operation and development," he explained.
Ceesay told the PAC/PEC Committee that revenue comes primarily from entrance/visiting fees to museums and historic sites, and other fundraising activities such as sale of publications, brochure and postcards. "On average, less than 10%of tourists visiting the country between 2004 and 2011 visit the national museum or national heritage sites," he said.
He stressed that donor funding is unreliable and unsustainable, noting that the UNESCO funding has declined significantly in recent times because of the withdrawal of United States contribution following the admission of Palestine into UNESCO.
At the end of his presentation, the Committee members and subject matter specialists raised questions, concerns, and recommendations, which were responded to by the NCAC officials before the report was finally adopted.
Sittings continue today, Monday, November 19th, 2012.