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Workers in Government’s ITLD Set Up to Fail

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Workers in Government’s ITLD Set Up to Fail

 

The fact that civil servants in the Government’s Information Technology department [ITLD] feel that they have been “set up to fail” is a monument to the Government’s mismanagement of the so-called digital transformation that it has presented with great fanfare but which has, in fact, been slow, painful and costly.

 

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “The Government has spent around £18Million in the e-government, digital and IT projects – a lot of that on expensive consultants. There has been little to show for it that is anywhere close to the modernisation and transformation that had been promised to people. Instead the consumer has had to suffer broken or inadequate systems that have just simply not been fit for purpose in many respects.

 

In the process the Government has chosen to under-resource its own ITLD and spend millions elsewhere for little obvious benefit to the public. There are big questions of value for money for the whole project over the last few years. Could the taxpayer not have got greater value for money with a programme of real investment and resourcing of its ITLD?”

The Government insisting that there is no dispute with the particular department simply adds insult to injury given that clearly there have been long-standing disputes over the last 6 years. For the civil service union to say that they cannot continue to deal with the Minister responsible speaks volumes of the handling of the situation but this is ultimately a problem of the Government’s creation, for the way they have treated this department and for the colossal use of public funds. A wholly different approach is what is needed, one which properly supports the department and provides an effective service to the public.

It is obvious that civil servants feel aggrieved given their walk-out on Friday and that there are disputes in respect of responsibilities that are being further eroded from ITLD. Civil servants are right to view those issues as matters of concern not just to workers in the department but as to the quality of the service the public are not enjoying as a result.

 

 

GSD Meet GGCA

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GSD Meet GGCA

The GSD met with the GGCA this morning to discuss issues concerning their members in civil service departments and other public sector bodies, agencies or authorities. The GSD was represented at the meeting by Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, and Damon Bossino MP.

Keith Azopardi said: “as we have mentioned on other occasions we have been actively meeting representative groups across our community. Positive engagement with the GGCA is not only welcome but necessary so that a future GSD Government can positively tackle the issues of concern of members, enhance the public service, reform and modernise it and obtain better value for money for the taxpayer. Many civil servants feel let down by this Government and understandably so. They are not being allowed to deliver the service the public hopes for in a number of areas through no fault of their own but rather because the Government has sat on some public sector reform issues for many years. Civil servants are rightly frustrated. We hope to continue to engage positively with GGCA in future.”

 

 

Government needs to come clean on Community Services and Supplies Limited & Wonderworks Media Limited

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In last week’s Parliamentary session, the GSD asked questions relating to Wonderworks Media Limited (WML) because the party had been informed that it was hiring labour to the Town Planning Department. WML is owned by Community Services and Supplies Limited, the company which is involved in (i) the Victoria Stadium; (ii) Coaling Island temporary housing; (iii) Laguna pensioners’ flats; (iv) Eastern beach promenade; and (v) the Rooke residential home projects. The directors of WML are civil servants.

In answer to questions Sir Joe Bossano stated that labour was not being hired from CSSL, although no reference was made to WML, despite the question specifically referring to this company. Mr Picardo had said he did not have information as to the precise company but had referred to using the private sector on matters relating to building control and preparation of projects for the DPC. What Sir Joe Bossano did reveal is that the Government “may give them (CSSL) work to do, with their labour”. This statement is potentially misleading and ambiguous at best.

It has now come to the attention of the party that employees of WML and/or CSSL are carrying out clerking jobs not only at the Town Planning Department but also in the Social Security Department.

“The Government is therefore asked to clarify what work is being done by CSSL or WML such that their employees are being allowed access to Government departments and further confirm whether these individuals are doing clerical jobs in government departments. If true, the effect is that the Government is filling civil servant posts in a way which is unacceptable.” said Damon Bossino of the GSD Opposition.

 

 

GSD Meet Unite the Union

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The GSD met with UNITE the Union this afternoon for a wide-ranging discussion on issues affecting Gibraltar, public finances, cost of living issues, the public service and the wider economy. The GSD was represented by Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, MPs Damon Bossino and Edwin Reyes as well as Atrish Sanchez from the GSD Executive.

This meeting forms part of the rounds of discussions we are having with representative organisations and bodies across the community and in the social or economic field.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “We welcome the engagement with Unite on important issues affecting the public service. We do not view this as a one-off. A GSD Government would have a policy of regular engagement with Unions on important issues of financial policy and that affect workers in the public and private sectors so that Gibraltar can emerge from the public finances crisis and ensure we do so in a way that assists people as much as possible as well as improving the quality of services available to the public.”

 

Stadium – Value for Money for Saver & Taxpayer?

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Stadium – Value for Money for Saver & Taxpayer?

 

The confirmation by GFA that it expects to repay the Savings Bank from the profits of the commercial and residential development once again raises value for money issues in the realisation of public assets.

The land was not sold with development rights in 2016 nor has the Government said that it has now extracted value from the GFA by way of a premium to allow this development to happen. This is a key question that remains outstanding. As things stand it seems that the GFA would be retaining or using the profits of a development in respect of which it has not paid a premium for development rights. The Government must now confirm why if this is so?

The additional confirmation that no UEFA monies would be used in the project is a complete u-turn on the previously announced position. In 2016 when the Victoria Stadium and land was bought (without development rights) for £16.5M the GFA confirmed that they would then use an additional £15M of UEFA money to reconstruct the stadium. What happened to that financial commitment? In turn the Government promised in 2016 that no taxpayers monies would be used to fund the stadium construction.

The Government continue to be silent about the actual extent of the “loan” being advanced by the Savings Bank for this project. Is this of a sum in the order of £100M? If not – of what sum? Savers are entitled to know. Additionally, the continued use by Government of the opaque Community Service and Supplies Limited structure is questionable and intransparent? We note the statement issued by the directors of CSSL which is hardly an exercise in clarity. We cannot see why it is necessary to organise public projects through charities when these are clearly Government driven projects with planning applications signed by civil servants.

In the interview with GBC the GFA said that they had been advised of costs in the region of £40Million for the football stadium and that even UEFA were surprised it would “cost so much.”

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “So many questions remain outstanding here. The Government first said the project would cost £100M and then said that was the value and not the cost. It has not confirmed what the precise cost is. Why? Is it correct that the cost of the stadium without the commercial development is in the order of £40 Million? The fact that GFA is apparently using the profits of a high-value commercial development so as to pay the Savings Bank raises value for money issues because without paying a premium for the development rights all that is happening is that the Savings Bank is being repaid out of profits that rightly belong to the taxpayer. In other words this – in effect – would breach the promise by Government that no taxpayers funds are being used to fund the project if the GFA is actually receiving an indirect subsidy by the taxpayer by not being charged a premium. This deserves immediate clarity.

Why should the Savings Bank be restricted to a small rate of interest return of 6-7% if it is stumping up all the cash for the development? Why should the taxpayer not receive a premium if the GFA want to develop the land commercially and for residential development? What should be happening is that the GFA should either have paid a substantial premium to develop the land or that the taxpayer should retain the profits from the commercial development. Neither of those scenarios have been confirmed by the Government. This should not be left to guesswork if the taxpayer and saver is to have value for money. The Government needs to make the position clear.

Beyond all that the continued structuring of these public projects through the CSSL structure raises many serious questions of transparency.”

The GSD repeat our call that the financial arrangements be published so that the value for money issues can be judged.

 

Savings Bank Investment in £100M Stadium Opaque & Not Clear Value for Money

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The GSD calls on Government to publish the terms of any agreement reached between it or the Savings Bank with the GFA on the financing of the proposed £100M stadium.

The statement made by Government which purports to provide answers to questions raised by the Opposition avoids key questions and is less than forthcoming about the details of the scheme.

In answer to press questions the Government had already stated on Monday that the Savings Bank investment would generate a “small” interest rate return for the Savings Bank. People will be surprised that the Savings Bank is providing all (or most) of the money and only making a small return. From the explanations provided the residential and commercial aspects of the development will not be for the benefit of the Savings Bank. Why?

The Government has accepted that when the land was sold to GFA for £16.5M in 2016 the price did not factor in that the land would be developed for residential or commercial purposes. If someone is sold public land and then wants to develop it for commercial or residential purposes they would always have to negotiate and pay an additional sum of money (a premium) to develop it because the development of land is a valuable public asset.

Rather than now revalue the land and seek a premium for the residential and commercial development the Savings Bank are apparently providing a “loan” to GFA that will be repaid from the profits of the development that the GFA never paid a premium for. In practice this is the Government (through the Savings Bank) stumping up the cash for the development, not charging the right value for the land and allowing another entity to keep the profits. Who those entities are remains deeply unclear after the Government’s statement. Rather than this being a good investment it is free cash being given away by the Government to others.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “The effect of the Government explanation of the investment scheme is that the land was sold at an undervalue in 2016 and now that GFA want to develop a high-value/high-profit scheme which contains residential, commercial units and a hotel the Savings Bank will fund it for only a “small” interest rate return and with the Government not extracting a premium for development of this public asset and allowing someone else to pocket the profits to which the Government or Savings Bank should have been entitled to anyway. That is an outcome that is clearly not value for money and amounts to taxpayers and savers not getting a proper return for their investment. It is unacceptable if that is what is happening as the public are entitled to get better value for their money. This is public or savers monies and not the Government’s.”

Additionally, the Government should be transparent about how it is structuring this scheme, who is precisely pocketing the profits of the scheme and why. It also needs to be open about who is pulling the strings at Community Supplies and Services Limited. It seems plain now that it is the Government itself behind this structure in one guise or another.

The GSD had issued its first reaction on the stadium before the Government had confirmed that the cost of the stadium is £100M. This is a staggering amount of money for an 8000-seater stadium. Clearly there may be local and unique factors that affect most constructions but the public (and savers holding accounts in the Savings Bank) are entitled to know why it is necessary to make an investment of that size to produce an 8000-seater stadium

The costs of other comparative European stadia some of which combine commercial development are available online. There are many clear examples of recent construction of stadia of comparative size of a far lower cost. Indeed you would be hard pressed to find an 8000 seater football stadium of such a high cost. We list some of these below:

1. AFC Wimbledon – 9000 spectators – £33Million
2. Stadion Dubocica – Serbia – 8000 spectators $25Million
3. Stadion Wisly Plock – Poland – 15,000 spectators – $44Million
4. Stadion Arcul de Triumf – Romania – 8000 spectators -37 Million EUROS

Indeed even in La Linea itself which is seeing the construction of an 8000 seater stadium it has been reported that the Ayuntamiento’s contribution to the construction is only 7 Million EUROS.

Mr Azopardi added: “Major questions that go to the root of value for money and who is benefitting from the scheme also arise because of this. People are entitled to know when public assets are sold at an undervalue and savings bank money is used in this way.”

The Shadow Minister for Public Finance and the Gibraltar Savings Bank, Roy Clinton said:

“The amount of money needed for this project is staggering. If this is such a great project I don’t understand why the GFA hasn’t obtained funding directly from an external bank and not had to rely on money taken from public savings. The Government or Savings Bank should publish the business plan for the proposed new stadium project and financial feasibility projections and payback period that underpin the loan notes that will be issued. This needs to be commercially sound and at arms-length with no conflicts of interest, political or otherwise. The answers provided so far are light on detail and have made depositors in the Gibraltar Savings Bank uneasy despite Government’s assurances.”

 

Roy Clinton MP Questions for November Parliament Session

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Roy Clinton MP  Questions for November Parliament Session

Parliament is scheduled to meet on Wednesday 23rd November 2022 @ 3.00pm

Can the Government please provide the total Gross Debt, Aggregate Debt after application of the sinking fund to Gross Debt, Cash Reserves and Net Debt figures for Public Debt for the following date?

 

Can the Government advise the balance on the General Sinking fund on the following date

Can the Government advise the amount of Company Tax collected in the month of September 2022

Can the Government confirm that it has abandoned the introduction of a £25 per week Company COVID charge announced in the Chief Minister’s 2022 Budget Speech

Can the Government advise if any Minister directs the activities of Community Supplies and Services Limited?

 

Can the Government advise if it has any financial or other indirect interest in

Community Supplies and Services Limited?

 

Can the Government advise where Community Supplies and Services Limited obtains its financing from?

Can the Government advise if any civil servants have been seconded to or in any other way provide services to Community Supplies and Services Limited?Can the Government advise the current status of the Business Improvement District scheme?

 

Can the Government advise the amount of fees paid to Isolas in respect of the conduct of the independent ballot for the BID scheme, and also provide a copy of their engagement letter?

Can the Government advise if the collapse of FTX has impacted on any FSC DLT licence holders and what measures has the FSC taken to protect customer assets?

 

Can the Government advise whether any proof-of-reserve was or has been requested of ZUBR Exchange Limited an FTX owned company and FSC DLT licensee?

 

Can the Government advise if the proposed Coaling Island modular unit temporary housing development is sponsored or to be sponsored under the National Economic Plan?

 

Can the Government provide a list of projects sponsored under the National Economic Plan together with an explanation as to why they have been so sponsored?

Can the Government advise how many responses it has received in respect of the Command paper on the repealing and replacing of the Gambling Act 2005 and are any changes to the proposed Bill envisaged as a result of the feedback received?

 

Further to Q392/2022 can the Government provide a similar schedule giving the breakdown of £10,700,000 of the estimated office rent and service charges for the Treasury Department for the year 2022/23 detailing the same information but identifying the lessor and grouping the information into a) Government owned lessors with a subtotal and b) Private sector lessors with a subtotal?

Can the Government advise what is the economic rationale for previously public buildings to be rented from Government owned companies (eg GAR Limited) by the Treasury Department at a built in increase of 3% per annum for 20 years and what are these companies doing with the money estimated at around £9 million per annum?

 

Can the Government provide a detailed analysis of the Gibraltar Health Authority costs of £1,124,422.65 incurred in the COVID-19 Response Fund in the three months ended 30 June 2022?

 

Elliott Phillips MP Questions for November Parliament Session

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Elliott Phillips MP  Questions for November Parliament Session

Parliament is scheduled to meet on Wednesday 23rd November 2022 @ 3.00pm

Can the Government state the nature and breadth of its consultation with the 1.5M rule in relation to cyclists?

Can the Government state the rationale for the imposition of £300 fine for a contravention of the 1.5M rule and why it is significantly higher than the UK and other European countries?

Can the Government state the waiting lists for operations across all disciplines within the GHA?

In relation to radiology can the Government state the waiting time for those needing all scans

Can the Government state why it hasn’t picked up on what the Chief Pharmacist has characterised as shocking and a tragedy the nearly £1 Million of wasted prescription medicines

Can the Government state whether or not Commonwealth Park and Campion Park are designated as smoke free zones and if not why not?

Can the Government state the anticipated cost of bespoke ambulances for Gibraltar as referred to by the GHA’s Director General in his public presentation on Monday 14 November 2022?

Can the Government state whether it intends to extend the current Director General’s appointment beyond the 18 month interim period due to expire in July 2023 and whether it has yet identified a permanent successor as stated in its press release of 916/2021?

Can the Government state what Gibraltar’s share of renewable energy is?

Can the Government state when it is next to publish it greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions declaration

Can the Government state whether it will be installing pop up cycle lanes in Gibraltar?

Can the Government state whether it has commissioned a specific report on safe cycling in Gibraltar given our unique road infrastructure

Can the Government state what progress it has made with its 2020 proposed Montagu Park project?

Can the Government state what progress it has made with its 2020 proposed Walk the Wall Project?

Damon Bossino MP Questions for November Parliament Session

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Damon Bossino MP  Questions for November Parliament Session

Parliament is scheduled to meet on Wednesday 23rd November 2022 @ 3.00pm

 

Please provide details of the Government’s policy with regard to eligibility for pensioner flats.

Please state how the provision of tours and tour guides are regulated.

Please state who the new residential building at the site of the Laguna Youth Club is expected to house.

Does the Government have enough housing stock to meet the needs of all applicants on the housing waiting list?

Please provide the following details relating to the recent visit to the World Travel Market:

(i) Who comprised the Government’s delegation;

(ii) The total cost of the trip broken down into air travel costs,

lodgings and entertainment;

(iii) Who the Minister or any member of the delegation met at

each event;

(v) What new business has been secured as a result of the trip; and

(vi) The duration of the trip?

Please state who it is intended to re-house in the Coaling Island temporary housing development.

Please state which ‘neighbourhoods’ are subject to alteration and demolition and which ‘urban remodelling’ is being envisaged as stated in the planning statement filed in connection with the Coaling Island temporary housing development

Please state what is being built on the neighbourhoods ear-marked for ‘alteration and demolition’ as scantily outlined in the planning statement filed in connection with the Coaling Island temporary housing development.

Please state what plans the Government has to build further developments using module blocks.

Where are the current occupiers of the Coaling Island site going to be moved to make way for the Coaling Island temporary housing development.

What planning and aesthetics considerations have been taken account of in respect of the Coaling Island temporary housing development which will be very close to a site which the government has earmarked for high- end residential living, namely Victoria Keys?

How many units in the Hassans Centenary, Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views developments remain unallocated and why is this the case, considering the continuing and high demand for housing?

What further updates can the Government provide in connection with the maintenance checks being carried out to the airport radar as reported by GBC

What assurances has the Government obtained from the MOD in connection with flight interruptions owing to radar maintenance works

Further to the replies given by the Minister for Housing with regard to the refurbishment of Chilton Court, please provide a detailed commitment as to when the refurbishment programme is to start and what it will entail.

Please state how the Government intends to meet the demands for supported independent living for those living with dementia, mental health issues and special needs.

What, specifically, is the Minister for Tourism doing to secure tourism and business opportunities with Morocco?

What further engagement has the Minister for Tourism had with Eastern Airways?

Are there any further developments with regard to Wizz Air?

How much has the Government spent on the refurbishment works in respect of the Northern Defences since 2014?

How many visitors have there been to the Northern Defences since the government started its refurbishment?

When will the Government employ the full complement of staff at the Town Planning department, to include the Town Planner?

Did the Chief Minister, Ministers, or any public servant give instructions for the cleaning of the housing estates ahead of the Chief Minister’s recent visits?

Please provide an update as to when the refurbishment works to the Parliament building will commence and what the cost will be.

Does the Gov support the application for the Sea Breeze floating hotel filed with the DPC?

Please provide the cleaning schedule for communal areas in Government estates

Is the Government considering increasing the selling price to purchasers of Bob Peliza Mews and/or Chatham Views from that originally advertised

Why have prospective purchasers of Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views not yet signed any purchase agreements given they were allocated homes some years ago?

How many people of those initially allocated homes at Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views have now requested to discontinue with their purchase

Who monitors the security cameras installed in housing estates to ensure that anti-social behaviour is dealt with?

Does the Government have any plans to deal with parking spaces which lay unoccupied in the Mid-Harbours estate?

 

Danny Feetham MP Questions for November Parliament Session

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Danny Feetham MP  Questions for November Parliament Session

Parliament is scheduled to meet on Wednesday 23rd November 2022 @ 3.00pm

How many claims filed with the Employment Tribunal are waiting for the appointment of a Chairman?

 

Of those claims filed with the Employment Tribunal that are waiting for the appointment of a Chairman please state the month and year the claims were filed?
Is the Government taking any extra measures to protect against fire in the Upper Rock?
How many Gibraltar residents are registered with the ETB as unemployed and what are their nationalities?
How many people are in receipt of unemployment benefit and what are their nationalities?
How many people (if any) are registered with the ETB as searching for a job but not registered unemployed and what are their nationalities?
How many people are in receipt of disability benefit and what are their underlying disability conditions?

During his 2022 Budget speech the Minister for Employment committed to “Lead Chairperson, who will be appointed shortly, and will also be carrying out the functions of President of Chairpersons”.  Has that occurred

 

Does the Minister for Employment believe as he said in his 2022 Budget speech that the Government’s “reform[s] will also ensure that all cases are heard in a timely and judicious manner”?
Does the Minister for the Employment still stand by the statement he made in his 2022 Budget Address that “the reform of the Employment Tribunal in recent years has delivered an effective, modern Tribunal system”? 
How many notices to quit has the Government issued to tenants, licensees or trespassers of Government housing stock in the last six years identifying:

 

a)     the category (i.e. tenants, licensees and trespassers);

b)    the year?

How many proceedings have been issued by the Government to tenants, licensees or trespassers of Government housing stock in the last six years identifying:

 

  • the category (i.e. tenants, licensees and trespassers);
  • the year;
  • what court were proceedings issued in;
  • the outcome in brief termsHow many legal claims or threatened legal claims against the Government, Government agencies or Government companies have been settled in the last 6 years where the claimant has been eventually paid more than £50,000

    What is the total legal aid cost to the consolidated fund in each of the last 6 years?

What is the total legal assistance cost to the consolidated fund in each of the last 6 years divided by areas of the law (e.g., family law)?