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Incredible Picardo Position on Conflicts of Interest

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It is incredible that Mr Picardo seeks to defend that a senior lawyer from the serving Chief Minister’s own law firm should be appointed to as sensitive a position as Chair of the Police Authority. Has he learnt no lessons from the facts underlying the McGrail Inquiry? Given that this Inquiry has heard so much evidence on the links between the Chief Minister and his law firm the sheer arrogance of this appointment when the Inquiry has not even reported is staggering.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “This is the deep blue water between the GSD and the GSLP. We think it is obviously wrong in terms of good governance for the incumbent Chief Minister to propose or support the appointment of someone from his law firm to chair the Police Authority. Mr Picardo doesn’t even think about it or worse still thinks it’s ok.”

Imagine a future scenario similar to Operation Delhi where the Chief Minister and his law firm have beneficial interests in a company within the scope of a police investigation where the investigation extends to a senior Hassans lawyer. Or a hypothetical future scenario where a Chief Minister is under investigation by a Commissioner of Police and that Chief Minister tries to orchestrate Police Authority intervention to pressurise the Commissioner. Does anyone think that in those scenarios it would ever be right for the Police Authority chair to have been appointed from the same law firm as the Chief Minister?

Those future scenarios show how inappropriate this appointment is. This is not about Mr Montegriffo. It is about the principle that a serving Chief Minister (whoever that is) should ensure that a Police Authority Chairman is not appointed from his own law firm or from his friends or associates. It is about good governance being seen to be done and not just being done. It’s about having proper checks and balances to avoid allegations of incestuous behaviour. This is about ringfencing obvious and perceived conflicts of interest. This protects the Police from the perception and risk of the Government exercising influence via the Police Authority Chair and in turn on the Police. It’s about proper arm’s length politics.

Mr Azopardi added: “We are happy to give that commitment. If I was elected Chief Minister and in Government we would ensure that no lawyer from my law firm (TSN) was appointed to Chair the Police Authority. It would not even occur to me to do so given how sensitive this appointment is and how it is important that it should look entirely unimpeachable.

It is also incredible that Mr Picardo should use a series of red herrings to confuse issues or pretend that there is distance between him and this appointment. It is within his gift under the law to ensure that the persons from whom the chair of the GPA is chosen does not include any person who has a professional or personal association with him. He has clearly failed to ensure that. When both Mr Picardo’s obvious potential successors within the GSLP also have long-standing links with the same law firm it just means that Mr Picardo’s departure will not even resolve the obvious inappropriateness of the appointment of someone from Mr Picardo’s law firm.”

Surprising Police Authority Appointment

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Surprising Police Authority Appointment

The appointment of a former Partner and now Consultant of Hassans as the Chairman of the Police Authority is surprising and inappropriate as it undermines public confidence in the appointment. The Chairman of the Police Authority should not be drawn from the same law firm as the Chief Minister.

This simply does not look good. The Chief Minister should have used his power to ensure that the next Chairman would not be drawn from Hassans, the firm with which he and senior Ministers have close links. In the event the reverse has happened and shows the Chief Minister is simply going about his business like before without factoring in any criticisms of the past. This undermines public confidence in the appointment of the Chairman of the Police Authority.

For weeks the McGrail Inquiry has heard significant evidence in relation to conflicts of interest arising from the Chief Minister’s interests in and his relationship with Hassans and some of its senior lawyers. The former Commissioner of Police and Police Authority are at the heart of that Inquiry which has also heard evidence of the influence that the Chief Minister brought to bear on the decision-making of the Police Authority.  There have been allegations made before that Inquiry of inappropriate conduct by the Chief Minister and an inability to ringfence conflicts in a way that affected institutions or affected how things should be done. That Inquiry has not concluded and still less reported.

For a new Police Authority Chairman to be drawn from Hassans when the Inquiry Chairman has not yet reported is a blinkered appointment done in blatant disregard of what is a current live governance issue in Gibraltar.

Mr Montegriffo is an excellent lawyer of unimpeachable reputation. Were it not for the fact that he is a former Partner and now Consultant practitioner at Hassans his appointment would be welcomed and without reproach. But the long-standing professional relationships between Hassans and the Chief Minister and other senior members of his cabinet are inescapable and inevitably affect the public perception of the appointment. One of those senior members of the Cabinet linked to Hassans is also Minister for Justice who again has clear interplay in the field of policing. From a governance perspective the appointment should not only be the right one it should be seen to be right and the optics of an appointment of a lawyer from the Chief Minister’s law firm to this sensitive post are just wrong.

Quite apart from everything that is currently before the Inquiry it is important to reflect on what this all means for future governance structures, the making of appointments to public posts and how conflicts of interest are properly contained. An immediate lesson that should be drawn is that given the sensitivity of the post the Chairman of the Police Authority should not be drawn from the same law firm as the Chief Minister.

It is clear from the Police Act that the appointment of a Police Authority Chairman is made from persons proposed by the Governor or Chief Minister. Given that the Governor has only been here for a few days it is likely that the appointment was heavily influenced by names proposed by and with the approval of the Chief Minister.

Even if that was not the case the appointment would still be inappropriate because of the perception it creates. In circumstances where the Chief Minister and other senior Ministers have a relationship with Hassans it does not help the perception of good governance for a former partner of Hassans who has been a lawyer there for 35 years to be appointed as Chairman of the Police Authority – an authority that is at the heart of policing, was created by the Constitution and needs to play a careful role in institutional balance in the interests of good governance.

Bossano’s Claims to Transparency Laughable

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Bossano’s Claims to Transparency Laughable

The Government’s claim that Sir Joe Bossano is committed to transparency and accountability is not just laughable but demonstrably untrue.

Roy Clinton MP the GSD Shadow Minister for Public Finance and the Savings Bank stated the following:
“Sir Joe Bossano seems determined to dig himself into a deeper hole by claiming that he is committed to transparency and accountability.

He was the one who described the funding of his National Economic plan as being a financial jungle. He is the one who will not tell me exactly how money from the Savings Bank is being directed to his projects. He is the one who tells Parliamentary colleagues to ‘lump it’ when he refuses to answer questions. He is the one who refuses to gazette the audited accounts of the Savings Bank.

I am not afraid of transparency and accountability; Sir Joe evidently has a pathological fear of it.”

Savings Bank Message Appears Contrary to Ministerial Code

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Savings Bank Message Appears Contrary to Ministerial Code
Sir Joe Bossano who last week wrote to Savings Bank investors in brazen party-political terms is now compounding that by failing to recognise and underplay this abuse of his Ministerial role. The GSD has noted that Sir Joe Bossano in a letter to the Gibraltar Chronicle on 11 June has stated that he will continue to provide savings bank customers ‘our different views’ which are necessarily political in nature. This in respect to the highly party political message he sent to all depositors on Gibraltar Savings Bank letterhead.
Roy Clinton MP the GSD Shadow Minister for Public Finance and the Savings Bank stated the following:
“Sir Joe Bossano seems incapable of understanding the difference between party politics in Parliament and the use of public resources and databases to disseminate his political propaganda. Many depositors will have been surprised at his outrageously party-political communication.
I would advise Sir Joe and indeed the Director of the Savings Bank to read section 6.3 and 8.1 of the Ministerial Code that expressly prohibit the use of official facilities and resources for the dissemination of party political material. He should not use his office as Minister with responsibility for the Savings Bank in a way that breaches those provisions.
Much of what Sir Joe wrote to depositors is debatable and indeed will continue to be an area of disagreement as he uses savers money to fund his failing National Economic Plan. An example of which is the Rooke Nursing Home site which he has admitted has already run into delays and cash-flow problems. But that is a separate issue which should not be conflated with the important issue of principle that he should not use his office to issue party-political communications to depositors of the Bank.
The Gibraltar Savings Bank is a public institution held on trust by the Government, not a private sector investment vehicle or regulated bank and thus must be more transparent and open than any other institution. To use its resources and database to disseminate party political opinions is simply wrong.”