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Isola urges businesses to ‘take extra care’ filling out BEAT applications

The Minister for Commerce, Albert Isola, has called on applicants to the BEAT Covid-19 scheme to take more care with their applications, as he lambasted the “clumsy” mistakes made by some applicants who in turn have complained about the processes put in place.

Speaking at the daily press briefing from No.6 Convent Place yesterday Mr Isola said the processes put in place by his department to manage some 8,000 applications in one month alone are sufficient to deal with that volume and queries stemming from this by businesses.

He said providing a contact number for such queries would have been unworkable, given that the number of applications runs into thousands, as did the number of queries.

Mr Isola was responding to a question from the Chronicle after a number of businesses contacted this newspaper expressing concern that the only point of contact for any queries was an email address, and that sometimes responses were slow despite tight deadlines in the application process.

One applicant expressed concern that he had yet to receive confirmation that his application had been received despite filing it last week ahead of today’s deadline.

Another expressed frustration about the email process, arguing it was a slow and cumbersome process to resolve simple queries.

While the businesses acknowledged that the BEAT scheme provided a vital lifeline for struggling businesses, they said the absence of one-to-one contact resulted in additional worry in a climate marked by challenging, stressful trading conditions.

But Mr Isola said most of the issues arose because some applicants were not taking sufficient care when filling in online forms, adding that his team was working non-stop to address all queries and help applicants complete the process.

“The people that have been managing these 8,000 individual employee applications and these 2,500 emails have gone way beyond the call of duty in dealing with some of the ineffective and clumsy way in which these applications are handled,” he said.

“The law is really clear on what you can and cannot do. The application form is really clear on what you can and cannot do.”

Despite this, he added, “some firms are making two, three, four, five, six applications for the same month.”

“Some firms are filling in an application form, forgetting to press the button which says submit and then emailing us to complain that they haven’t had a response.”

“There's a limit to what people can expect the Government to do and I want to thank each and every person that has been involved in this process dealing with quite frankly ridiculous questions from some individuals in this community who have made the most stupid questions and stupid processes in managing what I think is a relatively simple application.”

“So what I would beg our firms and our people to do is to just read the applications carefully, do it once, do it properly and it saves a lot of work for them and an awful lot of work for us.”

“Would it have been possible for us to do 8,000 employee applications, design, build, scrutinise tax, employment, treasury, Financial Secretary’s office check within the time we have any other way by having a telephone hotline with 8,000 people ringing it?”

“I don't think so. I think we’ve done it in the best way in the circumstances.”