GSD calls on Govt to reconsider Public Accounts Committee
The GSD has welcomed a recommendation from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association that the Gibraltar Parliament should have its own Public Accounts Committee, insisting its position on the issue had been vindicated.
This comes after the Vice Chairman of the UK branch of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Lord Foulkes, underlined the need for the Gibraltar Parliament to have a public accounts committee for the scrutiny of government expenditure.
The GSD welcomed those comments but said it regrets that the Government rejected a motion brought by Roy Clinton in October last year calling for its creation, which “would have avoided the embarrassment of being singled out by the CPA”.
The GSD’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Public Finance, Roy Clinton stated: “The observations by the CPA that Gibraltar were the only delegates at the recent conference without a PAC, vindicated our position but at the same time was obviously embarrassing to the Government who we had warned last year by way of motion that this was an important matter within the CPA.”
“The Chief Minister continues to use as a fig leaf the report of the Commission on Democratic and Political Reform whose report was issued in January 2013.”
“This report is not only now out of date with best practice but as was stated in Parliament in our view its conclusions in respect of not requiring a PAC were erroneous and ignored by its own admission that “ in the main there has been support for a public accounts committee”.”
Mr Clinton added: “The Chief Minister argues that the Opposition can obtain the information required to scrutinise public expenditure through questions in Parliament.”
“In our experience the Government avoids answering detailed financial questions and we have been told in Parliament that they do not have to tell us why certain financial transactions are undertaken,” he said.
“This is frankly unacceptable in respect of the management of public finance and pulls down an impenetrable shutter on transparency and accountability.”
“The Chief Minister’s other assertion that Gibraltar is too small and de facto calling PACs a tyrannical “one size fits all model” in his speech to the CPA closing dinner was as theatrical as it was wrong.”
Mr Clinton explained that other small jurisdictions such as Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, the Falkland Islands and St Helena all have PAC’s in various forms tailored to suit their specific needs.
“All PACs also require that public servants and officials are examined directly and held publically accountable,” he said.
“This matter is so important that the CPA have endorsed a parallel Commonwealth Association organisation of PAC’s to exchange ideas and provide support. Gibraltar could join the CAPAC as an associate member, if only Gibraltar had its own PAC, and draw on their experience and resources.”
“We once again call on the Government to reconsider its position on the setting up of a Public Accounts Committee.”
“The Chief Minister surely should have nothing to be afraid of in implementing what is regarded as best practice in transparency and accountability in public finance.”