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CM issues stern warning as minority seeks to exploit Covid measures

The Gibraltar Government “will come down like a ton of bricks” on anyone who attempts to abuse the BEAT Covid-19 measures to help business, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said yesterday, as he highlighted how some applicants had already attempted to “double recover’ under the scheme.

Some 556 company applications in respect of 3,941 employees and 244 applications by self-employed individuals have already been made seeking economic assistance from the Gibraltar Government under guidelines launched last month.

But even in this initial stage, there are signs that a small minority are seeking to gain from measures designed to help businesses stay afloat and protect employees from dismissal.

“We are starting to see details which suggest that there is an attempt to abuse these measures,” Mr Picardo said during the daily 4pm press conference at No.6 Convent Place.

And in a stern warning to those individuals, he said: “That is absolutely intolerable, such an attempt at double recovery is not something that we are going to tolerate.”

“I have already made very clear, we will not tolerate any abuse.”

“I have said we will come down like a ton of bricks on anybody who tries to make a claim which is not legitimate,” he added.

Mr Picardo explained that the Government had seen evidence of “double recovery” whereby people were claiming as self-employed but also being claimed for as employees in separate applications.

He also cited examples of some public servants who were seeking to benefit from the BEAT measures because they were also registered as self-employed, despite being in receipt of full government pay.

“So somebody who is receiving a wage as an employee, or is being claimed for as an employee for the Beat Covid minimum wage income, is also making an independent application because they also happen to be self employed,” he said.

“Such an attempt at double recovery is not something that we’re going to tolerate and we’re going to make sure that we deal with those applications as appropriate.”

“If you do not need to make a claim for BEAT Covid benefits, do not make a claim for BEAT Covid benefits,” he added.

Mr Picardo said issues of abuse were not confined to the private sector, as he highlighted how a very small minority of public service workers were finding excuses “to do less instead of stepping up to do more”.

“I want to be clear that 99.9% of the public sector has stepped up like never before, they’re doing a remarkable job whether it’s at the clerical level or indeed in the frontline in law enforcement or ERS or the GHA, which is the coal face of how we deal with this disease.”

But, he said “there are some who are failing to step up, there are some who are failing to get with the programme, they know who they are, I hope I am wrong but if I’m not, everyone will be expecting us to act in respect of those people and we will.”

“I will not hesitate to act, my hand will not tremble, my government will not tremble in dealing with those who stand in our way acting in the way that is necessary for the whole of this community.”

“The public interest must come first, especially at this time.”

“I will never forget those who failed to step up. I will never forget those who failed to shape up and I will never forgive myself if I don’t deal with them, and I will,” he added.

This comes as Mr Picardo said his Cabinet had agreed to establish a public inquiry once the Government declares that the current emergency is over.

“This will be an essential part of how we learn of what we have done right and what we have done wrong in this uncharted territory,” he said.

“We will learn for an early repeat if necessary. And we will record and learn for future governments of relevant matters for our historic record as a community.”

“This will guide us also in respect of how we fashion a better GHA for the future and a better public service generally and indeed, a better Gibraltar.”

Additionally, the Government will establish a more introspective Task Force, called Task Force Restart and Recover, which will examine national issues as well as public sector issues generally.

“We need to be ready to look after our public sector staff as they come down from the emergency and the Major Incident,” Mr Picardo said.

“And we need to take forward the things that this emergency has taught us.”

“And not least, we need to look at how we are going to loosen the lockdown, how we emerge from it as an administration and how we use this challenge of today to make us stronger tomorrow,” he said.

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