Published: Feb 15, 2017
Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) Chairman Paul Major has threatened to resign over reports that the commission has been “undermined” by senior officials in the government.
This is the latest development in a clash triggered by efforts to cut carnival spending in an election year.
The matter surrounds reported efforts by the commission to terminate its contract with Unique Bahamas International Ltd. (UBI), the exclusive producer of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival (BJC).
UBI, represented by Bostwick and Bostwick, has put the commission on notice that it is eyeing legal action as a result.
In a letter to Major dated January 23, 2017, John H. Bostwick II advised that his client’s desire is to complete its contractual obligations in the most professional manner while being unimpeded by present concerns and frustrations.
“Rumors are rife with reports of the issuance of a request for proposal (RFP), which details the exact services for which UBI is already contracted regarding the executive production of this year’s BJC,” Bostwick wrote.
“Should this be the case, it would be beyond disappointing and a clear example that the BNFC is not approaching these negotiations in good faith. “Such is our client’s desire to complete the contracted task at hand, that while it is not the preferred course of action, we are instructed and prepared to injunct any attempt to circumnavigate the contract and initiate an action for specific performance of the same.”
UBI said, as the contracted executive producer of carnival, it will provide all services detailed in the proposed budget, including the event management, production and promotion of all events and venues as provided for under its contract.
UBI’s fee for the provision of the services detailed in the proposed budget is $1,841,000.
This fee does not include the $500,000 fee that is to be paid to Sony Music, as agreed for each year over the three-year life of the contract for its continued participation as per the terms of the agreement and understandings between the parties.
Bostwick wrote, “Further, it must be noted that close examination of the proposed budget reveals that certain necessary line items have not been addressed, including but not limited to costs associated with the provision of security, ground transport, hotel accommodation, shipping and ticket collection.
“Please be aware that these costs and other costs not identified in the proposed budget are also not included in the quoted fee and are therefore subject to negotiation.”
Writing to the commissioners the following day, Major advised that UBI had taken the legal route and there were several questions the commission needed to answer, including whether the company could effectively slap an injunction on the commission, preventing it from issuing a select RFP.
Major also questioned whether suing the commission amounted to suing the government, since the commission was never created by an act of Parliament and has no assets, even though it has signatories from government ministries.
The commission also needed to consider whether its defense would be made by the Office of the Attorney General or private lawyers, according to Major.
The commission also needed to decide whether to walk away, given the country’s fiscal position, or whether it should negotiate with UBI.
Commission executives met with Bostwick a week later.
Following that meeting, CEO and Managing Commissioner Roscoe Dames, writing to Major, outlined the proposed redefined scope of work and the budget for the production of carnival.
UBI and Sony’s management fee would be $500,000, Dames wrote.
He also included a budget for carnival in Nassau at $503,000.
This would cover one main venue (Da Cultural Village); one main stage with screens; a delay stack with viewing screen and daytime performances; two main access points; performances for two nights (Friday and Saturday); sound, staging, lighting, power, video production, photography, production personnel, production support personnel, personnel travel expense, logistics and event management.
The budget proposed for carnival in Freeport for UBI’s scope of work was $270,000.
The total production cost was $1.2 million.
Up to Monday, the matter was unresolved.
This led Bostwick to write another letter to the commission’s lawyer, Wayne Munroe, QC.
In the February 13 letter, Bostwick wrote: “Please be advised that at no point has our client indicated any intention whatsoever to repudiate its agreement with the BNFC.
“In fact, all correspondence, including our referenced letter, indicates exactly the opposite as UBI repeatedly states that its primary desire is to complete its contractual responsibilities.
“It is the BNFC via its admitted preparation of a request for proposal tendering the contractual services detailed in the agreement between itself and UBI that has put our client on notice that it intends to repudiate the agreement, and it is for this reason that we have already put your client on notice that any attempt to do the same in breach of the stated terms of the contract, including those regarding the settlement of any disputes, will be met by the necessary court action.”
Bostwick also wrote, “...we are informed that a meeting between our clients was arranged by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and that the same was scheduled to take place at the ministry’s offices on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 10 a.m.
“We are further informed that the said meeting was canceled due to UBI’s executives being asked to attend a meeting with a more senior member of this present administration on Thursday evening.
“This meeting did, in fact, happen, and we are hopeful of some direction moving forward; however, should the same not occur, the agreement is very clear as to how any dispute is to be addressed moving forward and any deviation from the same without exhausting the complete process will be met with injunctive action, which we assure you that you will have due and direct notice of.”
It was this most recent letter from Bostwick that led Major to advise Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson on Monday that if the claims made by Bostwick in that letter are true, he would resign immediately.