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Govt slammed over GSD loan allegation

Photo by David Parody

The Gibraltar Government was slapped down yesterday by both the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham, and Independent MP Marlene Hassan Nahon over allegations made by the Chief Minister in Parliament regarding a ‘loan’ granted by a past GSD government.

This comes after the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, told Parliament last week that the Government was investigating the default on a £48,000 loan granted in 2003 by a former GSD administration to a company in which a then GSD minister allegedly had an interest.

Mr Picardo made the claim during a debate in which he replaced the entire text of a motion tabled by GSD MP Roy Clinton to debate the Principal Auditor’s annual report and propose the creation of a Public Accounts Committee in Parliament.

In a statement, Mr Feetham said the Opposition has made enquiries with former GSD Ministers none of whom recognise this alleged transaction.

Moreover, the Principal Auditor does not say in his report that the loan in question was provided to a company in which a GSD Minister had any interest.

That is an allegation made by the Chief Minister, Mr Feetham stated.

“We, therefore, invite the Chief Minister to place all the facts before Parliament in order to substantiate his allegations,” he said, adding that the GSD has nothing to hide.

Mr Feetham slammed the actions of Mr Picardo as a “…disgraceful and feeble attempt at a smokescreen to avoid debating the serious issues in relation to public finance raised by Mr. Clinton in his motion and defend his of lack transparency.”

He added that if this was such a “burning issue”, Mr Picardo has had five years to bring it to public light and has chosen not to do so.

“The GSD is not going to be deterred from holding the Government to account on the hundreds of millions spent and borrowed by it, most of which is hidden behind Government owned companies,” Mr Feetham said.

“That spending and borrowing is risking our economic and political security. That is the real issue.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Hassan Nahon has expressed ‘disappointment’ at the manner in which the Government used the issue of the ‘loan’ as a “tactical device” against the GSD during the debate.

In a statement, Mrs Hassan Nahon said: “If the Chief Minister thought this was a matter of public importance, then they should have really raised the matter when it first came to their attention, rather than keep it back from the public eye and only bring it out as a stick to beat Roy Clinton with when it suited them.”

Mrs Hassan Nahon said the Government’s argument that the matter of a Public Accounts Committee was rejected by the Commission for Parliamentary reform is a valid one.

But, she said, Mr Clinton’s Motion was a genuine attempt to increase transparency in Parliament three years after the Commission reached its conclusions.

She said so many things have happened since that report, that it was a good time to re-evaluate that conclusion “…sensibly, and not by dragging up dirt from the past.”

“Our electorate deserves better than that,” she said.

“After all, it is now the New Dawn Government who is in power, and whose record on transparency must be held accountable and therefore, matters of public interest must be brought to light as a matter of principle and not saved for partisan ping ponging.”

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