GSLP/Libs Hindering Financial Accountability

The Government is blocking financial accountability by systematically delaying taking certain legislation in Parliament. As was pointed out by the Principal Auditor in his report for 2016/17 and 2017/18 there is a legal obligation to pass the accounts to him within 9 months of the close of a financial year. That then allows him to prepare his report on the accounts of the Government.

The law provides that the Minister of Finance (in this case the Chief Minister) can extend the time. As reflected in the report the Chief Minister extended the time till the Bills for supplementary appropriation for both financial years had been passed in Parliament. By subsequently not taking the Bills in Parliament until July 2021 the Government blocked and delayed financial accountability by years. To give a clear example the Supplementary Appropriation Bill for 16/17 was first published on 12 January 2018 and was not passed till three and a half years later in July 2021. This has resulted in massive delays to the work of the Principal Auditor and is the major reason why we are only getting to hear of eye-brow raising financial issues that occurred years ago now.

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi said: “The Government is again using this delaying tactic for subsequent financial years. This is a misuse of its power and will again result in massive delay to financial accountability.

The Supplementary Appropriation Bills for the financial years 19/21 and 21/22 were initially published on 17 February 2022 and 18 May 2023 respectively. They were, however, not proceeded with by the Government before the election and have had to be re-gazetted after the election on 30 November 2023. People will think that it may have been convenient to the Government to delay all this till after the general election because it would bury any criticism by the Principal Auditor till after the election. Further delays to the progress of these Bills will only hold back accountability in an unacceptable way. It means that people will only get to hear the results of the audit years after the end of those financial years. The GSD call on Government to ensure these Bills are taken at the next available Parliamentary opportunity.

The misuse of this Parliamentary device hinders timely accountability and is wrong and unacceptable. People deserve to have transparency, accountability and to have this without these massive lags of time. Clearly the Government simply want to delay as much as possible because it doesn’t want certain things to surface quickly. Accountability delayed is accountability denied.”

This is just one aspect of a catalogue of issues arising from the Principal Auditor’s latest report. As we indicated yesterday the GSD will be setting out particular comments on aspects of these.