Wrong messages from the National Audit Office

 

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently published its report for 2017. In a democracy, the role of the NAO is of paramount importance. Its role of ascertaining the presence (or absence) of good governance at all levels is crucial in determining the health of the public sector.

The report lists the investigations carried out during 2017 in respect of which separate reports have been published and discussed publicly. These include the annual report on the public accounts, the consolidated annual report on local government, special audits and investigations and performance audits. Last year also saw the publication of a stand-alone report on the results achieved by the three main revenue-generating departments of the government, namely the Inland Revenue Department, the Value Added Tax Department and the Department of Customs.

In his overview, Auditor General Charles Deguara welcomes the positive developments, highlighting the administration’s commitment to implementing the NAO’s recommendations as far as possible. This has been done for two consecutive years and it is to be hoped that it becomes an annual occurrence.

The report explains the efforts made to continuously train the staff, thereby ensuring that, as far as possible, an internal team of experts is available to monitor and investigate as required. This is essential in order that the NAO keeps the administration on its toes.

The NAO, in its present format, was set up 20 years ago. Since 1997, it has been part of Parliament, accountable directly to Parliament. Previously, although technically independent it formed part of the Ministry of Finance.

During the past 20 years, it has had much to do. Its specific investigations are the ones about which we hear the most but the workings of the NAO go much deeper. Its continuous examination of the country’s public accounts, and the recommendations made to fine tune or correct methods of operation are always work in progress.

In order for the NAO to be as effective as possible, it should ensure that it keeps at arm’s length from the administration’s day to day operations. For this reason I was worried when reading in the 2017 report a short list of a number of domestic working groups in which the NAO participated. These range from the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) Implementation Project Board, the Financial Legislation Working Group, the Local Government Good Governance Working Group and others. The NAO should have oversight and not sit around the same table forming part of working groups to implement or draft a proposal for implementation.

Some years back the Auditor-General, together with the Ombudsman and the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, had decided to go beyond their terms of remit and accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to examine the issue of the salaries of MPs and holders of political office. I had taken the Ombudsman Said Pullicino to task about his stand when, together with Arnold Cassola I had met the trio. They then justified their stand by referring to legal advice from the Attorney General’s office and others! The three wise men did not realise that they had compromised their office because they cannot – and should not – switch from being regulators to being advisors, even if temporarily.

The NAO would do well to take a step back, thereby ensuring that it is at arm’s length from the administration. Otherwise it risks sending the wrong messages.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 April 2018

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Salarju tal-Prim Ministru €94,000, daqs kemm kellu Austin Walker tal-MEPA ?

Austin Walker

 

L-Independent f’dawn il-ġranet żvela l-kontenut tar-rapport li l-Prim Ministru talab Kumitat magħmul mill-Ombudsman,l-Awditur Ġenerali u l-Kummissarju Elettorali Ewlieni dwar mekkaniżmu biex ikun stabilit il-ħlas li jirċievu l-politiċi (holders of political office).

Dan hu punt politiku li jirriżulta mill-polemika taż-żieda tal-€500 fil-ġimgħa li l-Kabinett immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi ta’ lilu innifsu. Kien awto-goal li ħalla effetti negattivi mhux żgħar fuq il-Gvern immexxi mill-PN għax permezz ta’ dan il-pass idefinixxa lilu innifsu bħala Gvern insensittiv : għax fil-waqt li żied il-piż fuq iż-żgħir, fl-istess ħin ma iddejaqx jagħti lilu innifsu żidied sostanzjali.

L-Opposizzjoni dakinnhar għamlet dak li tagħmel kull Opposizzjoni: ħatfet l-opportunita’ li ngħatat lilha fuq platt. Kienet opportunita’ politika li għasritha u ħalbitha sa l-aħħar qatra possibli.

Għalhekk il-Gvern tal-lum qiegħed attent u qiegħed jipprova jiddistakka ruħu mill-proposti tal-Kumitat immexxi mill-Ombudsman Said Pullicino.

Ir-rapport tal-Kumitat immexxi mill-Ombudsman fih ħafna x’tiddiskuti.

Jiena u Arnold Cassola f’isem Alternattiva Demokratika iltqajna mal-Kumitat u iddiskutejna magħhom il-proposti li kienu qed jikkunsidraw. Huwa għalhekk ta’ sodisfazzjon għalina li l-Kumitat qabel ma waħda mill-proposti fil-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali u għamilha tiegħu. Qed nirreferi għall-proposta li f’Malta l-Membri tal-Parlament ikunu full-timers.

Ir-rapport tal-Kumitat, li Alternattiva Demokratika ngħata kopja tiegħu madwar xahar ilu bil-kundizzjoni li żżommu kunfidenzjali, jemfasizza l-vantaġġi ta’ Membri Parlamentari li jiddedikaw il-ħin kollu tagħhom għall-ħidma Parlamentari tagħhom.

L-ikbar interess tal-gazzetti u l-aħbarijiet fuq l-istazzjonijiet tat-TV kienet ovvjament dwar is-salarji proposti.

Interessanti l-fatt li l-Kumitat qed jipproponi illi l-Prim Ministru jkollu salarju ta’ madwar €94,000. Għal min qed jaħseb li dan hu xi salarju fenomenali  tajjeb li tiftakru li Austin Walker Chairman tal-MEPA tħallas dan l-istess ammont kull sena  matul il-perjodu 2008-2013.

Diskussjoni interessanti avolja Joseph  Muscat qed jgħid li ma jaqbilx mar-rapport!

When to resign

Ombudsman. Joseph Said Pullicino

Jean-Claude Juncker Prime Minister of Luxembourg has just submitted his resignation after accepting political responsibility for a spying scandal.

In Malta Magistrate Francesco Depasquale ruled that the Ombudsman was not right to claim immunity when his statement on Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco was subjected to libel proceedings. Moreover, ruled the Magistrate, the Ombudsman was not even authorised in terms of law to comment on the judiciary.

Would it be right if the Ombudsman Dr Joseph Said Pullicino resigns? I think that it would be the decent thing to do.

Ngħidu prosit?

Il-Kap tal-Verifika Interna tal-Gvern (Internal Audit and Investigations) qed tiġi investigata fuq allegazzjonijiet ippubblikati mill-gazzetta Malta Today li ħadmet bħala konsulenta u tat pariri lil ditta barranija dwar il-possibilita’ ta’ xiri tal-Casino di Venezia. Il-Kap taċ-Ċivil kellu jagħmel investigazzjoni!

Fiex waslet din l-investigazzjoni ma nafx. Nistennew u naraw xi skużi ser jinġiebu!

Issa ħarġet waħda aħjar! Fil-Parlament intqal li l-Ombudsman (il-Prim Imħallef Emeritus Dr Joseph Said Pullicino) filwaqt li hemm l-obbligu li ma jagħmel l-ebda xogħol barrani kien qed jagħmel xogħol ta’ arbitraġġ fiċ-Ċentru ta’ Arbitraġġ.

L-Ombudsman meta mistoqsi dwar dan ikkonferma u qal li dak li kien qed jagħmel seta jagħmlu.

Dan kollu irriżulta minn mistoqsija Parlamentari ta’ Helena Dalli lill-Ispeaker li ġiet imwieġba nhar is-6 ta’ Novembru 2012. Mid-dokumenti li  gew ippubblikati mill-Ispeaker liema dokumenti jikkonsistu f’ittri mktuba mill-Ombudsman, l-Ispeaker u l-Avukat tal-Ispeaker jirrizulta ħafna logħob bil-kliem jekk il-kliem preċiż tal-liġi tal-Ombudsman huwiex ċar li din il-ħidma (ta’ arbitraġġ) tal-Ombudsman ma tistax issir.

L-Ombudsman il-Prim Imħallef Emeritus Dr Joseph Said Pullicino jgħid li dak li għamel seta jagħmlu. L-avukat tal-Ispeaker jaqbel miegħu u jgħid li l-liġi tagħti lok għal interpretazzjonijiet varji.

In vista ta’ dan kollu u wara li nxteħet dubju li seta kien hemm konflitt mal-kariga li jokkupa l-Ombudsman iddeċieda li ma jaċcettax iktar inkarigi li jagħmilha ta’ arbitru. L-Ispeaker nhar is-6 ta’ Novembru 2012 informa lill-Ombudsman bil-miktub u qallu hekk:

“Jiena tal-fehma li fl-aħjar interess tal-uffiċċju tal-Ombudsman u tal-fiduċja pubblika f’tali uffiċċju, sabiex ikun evitat kull ekwivoku jkun għaqli li l-Ombudsman u l-Kummissarji nominati taħt l-Att dwar l-Ombudsman m’għandhom jagħmlu l-ebda ħidma oħra għall-qliegħ jew rikompens iehor, anki jekk din il-ħidma ssir b’mod okkazjonali.”

Qegħdin tajjeb. Dawk li ġew maħtur biex jgħassu għandhom bżonn ikunu mgħassa huma!  L-ewwel l-awditur intern tal-Gvern u issa l-Ombudsman.

Naħseb li la l-Prim Imħallef Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino u l-anqas is-Segretarju Permanenti fl-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru inkarigata mill-Verifika Interna m’huma ser jirreżenjaw. Bil-kemm ma jistennewx li ngħidulhom prosit.

Qiesu ma ġara xejn! Dawn huma l-valuri godda tal-pajjiz.