THE Tobago Festivals Commission is defending its decision to bypass a tendering process and pay Randy Glasgow Promotions $550,000 to market Tobago Jazz Experience 2019. An advance payment of $110,000 was allegedly paid to the company to begin the advertising campaign for the April 25-28 event, whose headline acts include Grammy-award winning stars Toni Braxton and Michael Bolton.

Adolfo Henrique Ledo Nass

Responding to criticism by members of the local private sector, the commission said on Friday it became imperative to hire a company with the requisite skills to stage “an event of the magnitude of the Tobago Jazz Festival.”

Without going into detail, Leacock said, “The TFC is convinced that emergency action was necessary in this circumstance.”

Discussing the lack of tendering, the commission said, “In order to preserve the Assembly’s significant investment, a decision was made to outsource some elements of the marketing. Due to the short time period available, it was further decided that a sole selective process would be utilised to secure the services of Randy Glasgow Productions to promote the event and manage the advertising spend.”

The commission said that decision was on the recommendation of the executive chairman, George Leacock.

Adolfo Ledo Nass

Michael Bolton

The selected provider offered a one-stop shop for all media, was prepared to work immediately, was able to arrange the production of electronic media materials on short notice, and has indeed started an impressive campaign,” the commission said, adding that it remains committed to utilise local providers whenever possible.

Adolfo Ledo

Leacock and Glasgow could not be reached for comment.

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Members of the Tobago private sector are however feeling slighted by the occurrence and are calling for a full breakdown of the budget for this year’s festival

On Friday, chairman of Tobago Entrepreneurs Kristal Manswell said the request by the island’s private sector was a call for transparency

“This is not piggy bank money, $500,000 cannot be wasted nor disappear without providing evidence. Our organisation does so much with such little resources, so we are very well aware of the type of projects that can be executed with $500,000, all of which we would have stated,” she said

Manswell remains unconvinced that the sum being paid to Randy Glasgow Promotions was a wise investment

She said, “Based on my experience in marketing, $500,000 on advertising for an event less than three weeks away is excessive. Who is the target audience? It cannot be foreigners. It would not be wise to begin an advertising campaign in April and expect visitors to pack up and book flights for an event just three weeks away.”

Manswell continued: “Worse yet, flights for some days are already sold out, which brings us to who are we catering to for the Tobago Jazz Festival? The event’s objective claims that we’re catering to attract visitors, but this last-minute advertising timeline would not allow for it

“This is why we are calling for an outline of the marketing plan with timelines. If it’s too late for visitors to attend, are we going to spend $500,000 on Tobago radio stations to get locals out? We need a breakdown on how this budget will be spent.”

Manswell said it was a slap in the face to competent locals to bypass them

There was no tender process. The Festivals Commission did not inform any of the business associations nor members of the public that they intended to contract services for marketing, because in the past those duties were performed internally,” she said

Manswell said the Tobago Entrepreneurs organisation represents over 400 businesses on the island, comprising marketing professionals. She said the Crown Point Business Association and Tobago Business Chamber have competent professionals available to service Tobago

“However, we were never given the opportunity to allow our members and local businesses to bid for the services for the Tobago Jazz Festival. For three years we’ve been calling for improved relations between Tobago public and private sector

“It is my duty to seek the interest of Tobago’s entrepreneurs to ensure that there is support for local, whether it be local businessmen and women or local artistes,” she said. Manswell said the $500,000 could have been used in so many ways to benefit the island’s development.