Issues relating to the controversial International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) – Bollywood’s version of the Oscars – held in Colombo in June 2010 continue to haunt Sri Lanka with unpaid bills to hotels, the agent and suppliers amidst an overdue audit report.
The Ministry of Economic Development, which oversees tourism, has scheduled a meeting next week with senior officials from all sections involved in this event to discuss the audit report that was prepared over the costing and cost-effectiveness of the mega event which saw superstar Amitach Bachchan boycott the ceremony following pressure from pro-Tamil extremists.
Tourism industry officials say there is more than Rs 100 million in unpaid bills of which around Rs 35 million is owed to hotels like Cinnamon Grand, Intercontinental, Galadari etc; another Rs 35 million to various suppliers, transportation and the BMICH, and Rs 20 million to organisers and promoters Wizcraft International, among others dues.
They said the payments are being held up due to delays in approving the audit report (which is ready) by Ministry Secretary Dr P.B. Jayasundera, who is also Treasury Secretary. “The IFFA event took just three months to organise but the audit report is taking much longer,” one official said, explaining that the committee was appointed in first week August 2010. “I hope the audit report will be cleared for these long-delayed payments to be made.”
The resignation of Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Development B.Wijayaratne earlier this month over an disagreement with Dr. Jayasundara, which was reported in the Business Times (BT) in its January 23rd issue, was over the audit report, other sources said.
“The Treasury Secretary was not convinced that the ‘accounts’ were clear as stated in the report while the Additional Secretary had accepted the committee recommendations,” one source said.
At a meeting with the industry some 10 days ago to discuss a request to reduce taxes (which was reported last week in the BT), Dr Jayasundera had said that IIFA had not received the expected promotional mileage for Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s IIFA budget was Rs 400 million of which revenue earned was Rs 100 million, the officials said adding however that it was not a revenue earning exercise but to get worldwide promotion and mileage, and attention. They were also responding to media criticism that the event failed to attract big-time stars with Mr Bachchan, IIFA brand ambassador, pulling out along with his son Abishek and daughter-in-law Ashwariya Rai not attending due to ‘other engagements’.
The officials said there were other stars and also wide Star TV coverage while actor Salman Khan, impressed by Sri Lanka, while attending the IFFA event shifted the ‘shoot’ of his latest film to Colombo from the Mauritius, spending some Rs 75 million here.