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Charles Santos appointed Financial Secretary as Albert Mena announces return to legal practice

Pic by Eyleen Gomez

Albert Mena, the Financial Secretary, will leave the post on October 1 to return to legal practice, the Gibraltar Government announced on Monday.

Mr Mena had been appointed for three years in 2014 but extended his time in the post to help manage Gibraltar’s response to Brexit and Covid-19.

In announcing the decision, Mr Mena expressed optimism about Gibraltar’s economy and said that recovery after Covid, coupled to fiscal measures announced in the budget, meant the Rock was “primed to turn the corner” after the challenges of the past few years.

Mr Mena will be succeeded by Charles Santos, the Accountant General at the Treasury. This is a direct appointment by the Chief Minister, in keeping with established practice in relation to the post of Financial Secretary.

When Mr Mena leaves on September 30 to return to his legal practice at Hassans International Law Firm, he will have served eight years as Financial Secretary.

Prior to his departure he was involved in finalising this year’s estimates. That, No.6 Convent Place said, will give Mr Santos “a full half year” to prepare for next year’s Government estimates of revenue and expenditure.

“The nation owes a huge debt of gratitude to Albert Mena for his work as Financial Secretary in seminal moments of our history,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

“He was in post for the shock of the result of the Brexit referendum and the impact of the Covid pandemic.”

“Both of these events will define his contribution to public life and to the financial management of Gibraltar.”

“His work on each of these has been a massive benefit to Gibraltar and its people.”

“In fact, having stayed eight years in a job which he was originally slated to do for three, it is right that he should now return to his private practice as we are emerging from the consequences of both COVID and Brexit.”

“Moreover, Albert has achieved the main aim which we identified on his arrival at No.6, which was to help to train a successor from within the ranks of the Civil Service.”

“I know that if Albert does not move back to legal practice now it will be very hard for him ever to do so.”

“He is already 55 and he has given some of his most productive years to Gibraltar in his public service at the hugely difficult times through which we have worked together.”

“As a result, he leaves with a lot of work to be proud of and having helped us to steer Gibraltar on a course to the recovery of its public finances.”

“He will nonetheless remain closely involved in advising me on matters of public finance, as well as continuing to serve on a number of government boards where [his] contribution will be a great assistance to the government.”

Mr Picardo said Mr Mena had played a key part in establishing an “excellent” relationship with the UK Treasury and with international financial institutions, adding he was hugely respected.

He welcomed that Mr Mena would continue to support the work of the government to “entrench the recovery” of Gibraltar’s public finances from the double hit of Brexit and Covid.

Mr Picardo acknowledged too the personal sacrifice that the job had required.

“The work he has done in government has demanded a commitment in time which has been far excess of what would have been demanded of him in private practice,” the Chief Minister said.

“I will for ever be grateful to him for that commitment and the delivery, against highly complex circumstances, of hugely positive outcomes for Gibraltar and its people.”

“I extend that gratitude also to his family who supported him through these hugely challenging periods when he has worked very closely with me and Sir Joe.”

“Never has it been truer to say that we have been through tough times together, and I also personally thank Albert for his friendship, help and support, at a professional and human level, in the hardest times I have ever faced as a politician and professional.”

“The times we faced together in March 2020 are unparalleled and his support, hard work and unflinching commitment and professionalism made the crucial difference at that time when Gibraltar needed him.”

On Monday, Mr Mena said he had agreed to extend beyond the initial three-year period ending in 2017 “out of a sense of public duty give the extraordinary pressures” on Government finances as a result of Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

“I never expected to stay in post as long as I have,” he said.

“I feel now, however, that it is a good time to return to my professional career in Hassans as well as devoting more time to my young family.”

“It has been a real honour to serve as Financial Secretary, working alongside the Chief Minister and his team, together will all those dedicated individuals across the Civil Service I have had the pleasure of coming into contact with over the last eight years.”

“In particular I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to the extremely hardworking, committed and dependable team at Ministry of Finance in the Office of the Financial Secretary.”

“I think the work we have done in the past three financial years, in particular on Covid measures, are now on track to be resolved after this year’s Budget and I look forward to continuing to work with new Financial Secretary and the government from private practice as Gibraltar is now primed to turn the corner from the challenging situations we have faced through no fault of our own.”

“I am optimistic about the prospects for the Gibraltar economy and the positive repercussions it can deliver for our public finances in the months and years to come as we recover financially and we maintain the discipline on spending and revenue raising which the Chief Minister set out in his Budget address this year.”

“I remain available and willing to be called upon by the new Financial Secretary, Minister Bossano and the Chief Minister at any time to assist Gibraltar whenever it needs me.”

Accountant General and Financial Secretary designate, Charles Santos, said: “I am greatly honoured to have been asked to take over from Albert Mena.”

“I have worked very closely with him in the time that he has been Financial Secretary and have learnt a lot from him.”

“I look forward to working even more closely now with the Chief Minister and Sir Joe Bossano on all matters related to the public finances of Gibraltar and seeing through the measures that have been put in place to resolve the challenges that Brexit and particularly COVID have given rise to.”

“As I move from the Treasury to the Ministry of Finance, I want to thank all my colleagues at Treasury, with whom I know I will continue to work in months and years to come.”

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