“A lot of money and little supervision leaves the door wide open for abuse.” Antwerp Green municipal councilor Niel Staes expresses sharp criticism about the subsidies provided by the non-profit organization Antwerp & Partners Convention Bureau (ACB) from Antwerp Alderman for Tourism Koen Kennis (N-VA).
ACB helps organizations or companies in organizing conferences in the city of Antwerp, among other things. it provides free and independent advice. ACB is the bridge between the organizer and the Antwerp hotel sector, among others. Staes has had reservations about this organization for some time. He notices that ACB now also receives a lot of money from the city of Antwerp.
“This organization sees its grant increase to more than 1 million euros for 2023,” says Staes. “Not bad for an initiative that received 20,000 euros in support from Antwerp in 2021.”
In addition, Staes notes that a loss of 38,730 euros was recorded in 2021, but last year a surplus of around 125,000 euros was recorded.
“That turnaround came about thanks to an injection of about a quarter of a million euros by Koen Kennis. And it doesn’t stop there. In 2023, the annual grant will rise above one million euros. However, the budgeted contribution from the private ‘partners’ in 2023 is zero euros. This was a loss-making initiative that was saved through Kennis’s personal intervention. The non-profit organization receives – without any real merit – 0.55 euros for every overnight stay in Antwerp. In this way, it is now directly financed by every day tripper, backpacker and small hotel entrepreneur in the city,” says Staes.
According to the opposition member, he warns of a repeat of what happened with Sihame El Kaouakibi’s discredited non-profit organization Let’s Go Urban.
“A lot of money and little supervision leaves the door wide open for abuse,” says Staes. “The evaluation for 2022 consists of exactly 250 words. Based on half an A4 sheet, one is guaranteed a subsidy of one million euros. The partners in this construction won the proverbial jackpot: no input and hardly any accountability in exchange for a free annual marketing budget of 1 million euros. Ultimately, this is nothing more than a PR agency for the exclusive hotel and conference industry at the expense of the city. It shows once again that there is enough money in Antwerp, but that the priorities are completely out of balance.”
Alderman Koen Kennis was unable to respond to the criticism on Wednesday.