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Schools and GHA spending prompt lively exchanges in Parliament

Parliament saw a number of thorny exchanges between Government and Opposition yesterday as MPs clashed over issues including ‘security risks’ over the Government’s new schools and the decision to remove the financial reports from the public part of GHA board meetings.

The question and answer session commenced in the afternoon with a series of questions on aspects of the Government’s schools programme and education generally.

Asked how the Government will manage security risks and hoax calls on schools with underground private parking, the Minister for Education Dr John Cortes insisted that safety will be enhanced in comparison to the situation now.

As the session moved on to health-related questions the session saw a number of barbed exchanges at times necessitating the intervention of the Speaker, Adolfo Canepa.

In response to a question regarding the removal of the financial reports from the public part of GHA board meetings, Health Minister Neil Costa underscored that the report is still discussed at the meetings only now it is done privately during an ‘in-camera’ session of the GHA Board.

The GHA Board meetings were opened to the public in 2012, with financial information such as the budget, expenditure and forecast previously included as part of the agenda.

That allowed anyone interested in health spending – the largest part of the government’s expenditure – to monitor how the GHA was doing in keeping to its budget.

But the decision was taken by the CEO and his executive team in September 2016 not to include financial information in the public reports.

Mr Costa explained that a degree of confidentially is important because these reports can be “commercially sensitive” and therefore public discussion could hinder the GHA’s ability to secure the best value for money for the taxpayer.

He also highlighted how the entirety of GHA board meetings took place in private under the previous GSD administration.

The GSD, however, questioned the ‘move towards less transparency’, with Shadow Health Minister Daniel Feetham stating that it is for the Government to justify the change at this particular juncture.

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