By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Federal Government is not yet clear about how the Mbantua Festival in Alice Springs spent public grants totaling $1.3m. But festival director Neville Perkins says: “We have done our acquittal report, and we have complied with the grant conditions.”
A string of artists and suppliers to the festival have come forward complaining that they have not been paid, or not paid in full, for the event in October last year.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet told the Alice Springs News Online today: “As part of its standard project acquittal processes, the Department is in the process of obtaining from Arrulka Business Aboriginal Corporation a breakdown of how it spent the $1.3 million it received from the Aboriginals Benefit Account.”
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations lists Neville George Perkins and Krystal Perkins, both of Alice Springs, as directors of Arrulka.
Aaron Perkins-Kemp-Berger and Francis Edward Woodbury, both of Alice Springs, and Hope Amber Kamara Perkins, of Hawthorn East, Victoria, are listed as members of the corporation.
Its total income listed for 2012/13 is $631,739, and its total assets, $184,044.
Mr Perkins would not reveal how much money is still owing, nor to how many creditors, but said: “We are finalising payment to all the bona fide creditors as soon as possible.”
He said he would release a written statement tomorrow.
Google our site for comprehensive earlier reporting, including comprehensive coverage of the festival itself.
UPDATE 7:10am Tuesday:
Mr Perkins last night would not disclose how Mbantua spent its income, be it from ticket sales, government grants or other sources.
However, he referred to dealings between him, Arrulka and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in early January.
The Alice Springs News Online reported about these dealings on February 6. Mr Perkins did not comment on the matters at the time, but has now released a letter dated January 27 to Richard Eccles, Deputy Secretary of the Department. The letter is reproduced here.
Mr Perkins refers in this letter to a further grant of $350,000, in addition to the grants of $1.3m already received. Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has since announced that this further funding request had not been granted.
Mr Perkins’ argument is in line with comments he has been making for some time, quoted in the Alice Springs News Online or in conversations with its staff: Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) money is not government money but comes from mining on Aboriginal land.
Mr Perkins remains adamant that the ABA has recommended a further grant to the festival, and it should therefore be granted.
However, the government’s position has always been that the ABA has merely an advisory role, and the decision lies with the Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
By ERWIN CHLANDA