In what has now become his hallmark Mr Picardo resorts to spin and downright lies to defend himself from first failing to fulfil his manifesto promise to set up an Anti-Corruption Authority and then presenting a Bill that is inadequate.
Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “Mr Picardo and his Government are now part of the problem. That is why they cannot deliver the solution. The sooner Gibraltar sees a change of Government the better for our public finances and our democracy. What needs to be done on this agenda is clear to the GSD. We will have a big programme of reform in our manifesto and will undertake those changes when elected to Government.”
We will not play games on this issue and accept the hollow invite tendered by Mr Picardo. As is the norm when he is cornered Mr Picardo invites cooperation or promises to set up committees to look at diverse issues which kick matters into the long grass. Those committees have a tendency of either not meeting at all or meeting infrequently and invariably coming to nothing.
The Bill put forward by Mr Picardo is late and is plainly insufficient. The jurisdiction of the Authority is limited to a select number of criminal offences only. Its powers or ability to investigate can be curbed at any given time by the Chief Minister. It does not deal at all with issues of conflicts of interests, the rampant financial opaqueness or cronyism. It is so clearly inadequate that we wonder why Mr Picardo has left the presentation of this Bill till so late and why he has presented such an obviously inadequate piece of legislation. What does he have to hide and why has he been dragged kicking and screaming to present this Bill?
The idea that the GSD have blocked an Anti-Corruption Authority is laughable not least because the GSLP/Libs have a parliamentary majority and they can get any piece of legislation through with their majority. The fact is that they haven’t presented a Bill till now – 11 years after promising it. They have also flip-flopped on the issue. They promised it in 2011 and abandoned the promise in 2015 only to restore it in 2019. They have now presented a Bill that does not go far enough and they know it. They are seeking to sell this to people as reform in the hope it quietens down criticism.
The GSD had a clear commitment to an Anti-Corruption body in our 2019 manifesto. But it was much more radical than this version. Our issue is not with the concept but with his inadequate Bill that does not go far enough. Why is Mr Picardo unwilling to go further?
Mr Azopardi added: “It is true that I did not see the need for an Anti-Corruption Authority in 2011. That has a simple answer. It is because I did not think it necessary after 16 years of GSD Government. However, after 11 years of Mr Picardo’s administration, the rampant cronyism, opaqueness, financial abuse and issues of serious democratic deficit it is obvious that there is a clear need for anti-corruption measures. These need to be put in place to ensure we clamp down on these practices and ensure this does not happen again. The measures required need to go much further than the semblance of reform presented by Mr Picardo to cover his tracks. It is the practices that Mr Picardo has been willing to tolerate that have led to the necessity for a comprehensive set of reforms.
If Mr Picardo is serious he needs to go further. But like everything this is just another of his smokescreens and classic tactics. He talks big, he blames everyone else, he distracts from the issue and then he does little or fails completely.
We expect nothing more from him on this issue and the people of Gibraltar are now wise to how he pretends to be a reformist but blocks any significant reform to tackle waste, abuse and corruption.”