Chief Minster Scared of Financial Audit
The Chief Minister’s attack on the GSD’s interim analysis of the delayed 2016-2018 Principal Auditor’s report shows his fear of being held to account publicly for the failures in the GSLP’s controls over public finance for which he, as Minister of Finance, is responsible. The way that he and his Government handle public finances show that they are systematically blocking accountability and transparency. Their statements on public finances have to be taken with a massive pinch of salt given their track record of spin, half-truths and obfuscation. They simply cannot be believed or trusted anymore.
Roy Clinton MP the GSD Shadow Minister for Public Finance stated the following:
“The Chief Minister accuses me of being obsessed with numbers and I take that as a compliment because that is the essence of my role as Shadow Minister for Public Finance. He in contrast displays a cavalier attitude to the Principal Auditor’s report and as usual seeks to deflect from the fact that the Auditor is commenting in the main on how public money has been spent and not just the cold and now old numbers.
Mr Picardo would have the taxpayer believe that he is the guardian of the public purse and yet a simple reading of the Auditor’s report, that he as Minister for Finance has delayed unnecessarily, provides evidence to the contrary. Mr Picardo claims that he and his GSLP know better than the entire western world of public finance and that a Public Accounts Committee (‘PAC’) would be ‘not good for Gibraltar.’ The Principal Auditor states about PACs that it is ‘best practice in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and indeed every prominent state in the western world, to oversee government accounts and ensure transparency and accountability in government financial operations.’
Mr Picardo claims that he would ‘not expose Civil or Public Servants to public cross-examination by Mr Clinton or anyone else.’ By saying this is he saying he would protect the SPTO on 196% overtime and the controlling officer who authorised it; protect the civil servant who awarded multi-million pound GHA contracts without following procurement rules; protect those who awarded works contracts that were obviously not Value for Money; and protect those who claim the Principal Auditor does not have the legal power to ask questions of money that went into Government Companies? What he should be doing is focussing on protecting taxpayers’ money.
Who is it then that he is really trying to protect? The need for a PAC can be described as my hobby horse since I proposed it in a motion in June 2016 which was defeated by the Government, but to simply call it my ‘hobby’ and suggest I am somehow ‘piggybacking’ serves only to confirm my low opinion of Mr Picardo’s understanding of public finance.
The stark and inescapable reality is that Mr Picardo’s statement that he wishes to ‘protect’ civil servants from “cross-examination” is merely a smokescreen. He is only trying to protect himself and his Ministers from public scrutiny. People will see through that self-serving position.
The tone in any organisation is set at the top and any objective reading of the Principal Auditor’s report will highlight failings in many areas. If the Chief Minister seeks to undermine the audit process by delaying the issue of the Principal Auditor’s reports it begs the question why is he so scared? The comments that the GSD have been making are in relation to this 2016-2018 Report. Who knows what excesses in public finances have occurred in the 2019-2023 period? What Mr Picardo should do is allow the Principal Auditor to conclude his work on those years so that there is timely scrutiny now of those years as well.”