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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Id-Direttiva tal-Mistħija : l-aħħar Att

 

Dal-għodu kont infurmat bit-telfon li xtaq jiltaqa’ miegħi Dr Godwin Grima is-Segretarju Permanenti Ewlieni li hu ibbażat f’Kastilja. Xtaq jiltaqa’ miegħi dwar id-Direttiva Numru 5, dik li jiena iddeskrivejt bħala d-Direttiva tal-mistħija.

Fil-fatt iltqajt ma Dr Grima illum fl-4.00 pm. Kont akkumpanjat mill-kollega tiegħi l-Professur Arnold Cassola.

Dr Grima qalli li id-Direttiva qed tkun interpretata ħażin għax l-intenzjoni dejjem kienet li l-kandidat ikollu d-dritt li jagħżel hu jekk waqt il-kampanja elettorali għall-Kunsilli Lokali jibqax jaħdem, jużax il-leave tiegħu jew jagħmilx użu minn leave bla ħlas.

Jiena ġbidt l-attenzjoni ta’ Dr Grima li fil-waqt li l-intenzjoni tiegħu kienet waħda nobbli l-kliem tad-Direttiva kien jgħid mod ieħor.

Qrajtlu din il-biċċa :

“ ……… so however that in each of the three cases, the prospective candidate has no option but to avail himself/herself of unpaid electoral leave for an uninterrupted period of at least 15 working days ….” (ara paragrafu 4.1 tad-dokument hawn anness)

Din ma tikkorrispondix mal-intenzjonijiet tiegħek, Dr Grima, għidtlu.

Dr Grima qalli li għandi raġun u wegħdni li ser jieħu ħsieb li jikklarifika l-affarijiet.

Din hi l-istorja kollha. Issa jekk kienx żball ġenwin jew xi ħaġa oħra ma nafx.

L-importanti li Alternattiva Demokratika indunat filwaqt li ħaddieħor li hu mħallas biex ikun imqajjem baqa’ rieqed (per eżempju l-Assoċjazzjoni tal-Kunsilli Lokali).

Direttiva tal-Mistħija

Id-Direttiva li ħareġ is-Segretarju Permanenti Ewlieni f’l-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru dwar l-impenn politiku fil-Kunsilli Lokali hi tal-mistħija.

Din id-Direttiva hi immirata lejn l-impenn ta’ dawk li jaħdmu fis-settur pubbliku. Ħarġet inkiss inkiss tant li ftit kienu dawk li jafu biha.

Dawk li qegħdin fi grad minn skala 5 (jew ekwivalenti) il-fuq m’humiex effettwati. Ma kienx possibli għalihom li jinvolvu ruħhom u hekk baqgħu. Il-bqija setgħu imma issa għandhom id-diffikulta li jridu joħorġu bil-leave.

Id-direttiva titkellem dwar leave bla ħlas għal ħmistax-il jum tax-xogħol.

Min huwa dipendenti fuq il-paga ser ikun ikkastigat talli qed joffri servizz volontarju lill-komunita. Qed ikun ikkastigat tal-impenn tiegħu fil-ħajja pubblika. Min għandu familja x’jgħajjex u loans xi jħallas ma jistax jagħmel is-sagrifiċċju finanzjarju li d-Direttiva qed titlob minnu.

Il-bieraħ fi stqarrija inbidlet ftit id-diska u qiegħed jingħad li flok leave bla ħlas il-ħaddiema tas-settur pubbliku li jikkontestaw għall-Kunsilli Lokali jkunu jistgħu jutilizzaw il-leave annwali tagħhom. Dan mhux tajjeb biżżejjed għax ifisser li ser ikunu mitluba jużaw prattikament il-leave kollu tagħhom għal sena sħiħa. B’hekk ser jitqegħdu f’posizzjoni li jnaqqsu l-ħin tal-mistrieħu tagħhom mal-familji tagħhom. Dan minn Gvern li jipprietka ħafna favur il-familji.

Ma ntqal xejn kif ser jintlaqtu dawk li m’għandhomx leave, bħall-għalliema. Dawn m’għandhomx leave annwali u huma kkumpensati bil-vakanzi tal-iskejjel fil-Milied, l-Għid u fis-sajf.

Min ħa d-deċiżjoni li wasslet għal din id-Direttiva qed jattakka l-impenn politiku taċ-ċittadin iż-żgħir li qiegħed jimpenja ruħu fl-egħruq tal-komunita’.

Dan hu attakk fl-egħruq demokratiċi tal-pajjiż.

Istħu. Jekk tafu kif.

The politics of sustainable development

published on Sunday 29 June 2008

by Carmel Cacopardo

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 The government is in transit: it has declared that from now on sustainable development will be the cornerstone of its policies. However, it has not yet stated how this will come about. With regard to this issue, it cannot wait five years to implement its proposal. It must be in a position to deliver immediately.

The adoption of sustainable development as the focus of government policy should lead to the logical conclusion that the economy should henceforth no longer be viewed as an objective but rather as a tool: the economy should be at our service, rather than being our master! The point of departure should be the ecosystem of which we form part. The limited capacity of our ecosystem should lead us to adopt ecocentric policies as distinguished from the current anthropocentric ones. This is what sustainability is all about and this is what the adoption of sustainable development, as a policy objective, should lead us to. The transition from the current state of affairs to a sustainable state should hopefully address the causes of our accumulated environmental deficit!

The government is now seeking ways to live up to its declarations in favour of sustainable development, hoping that it would not have to resort to make substantial changes to existing policies. It is however next to impossible to arrest the accumulated and ever-increasing environmental deficit without addressing the policies and attitudes that have caused it. The list is quite long!

In Malta too, mainstream politics is motivated by the instant link between cause and effect. The community almost immediately feels the economic and social effects of policies and administrative decisions. Thus, mainstream politicians are generally quick to react even to a perceived impact on the economy or on the social fabric. The effects of environmental impacts are however generally much

slower, in part due to the resilience of Mother Earth. Hence, for innumerable political generations, environmental impacts were completely ignored or sidelined, as there was a time lag at times of considerable duration between cause and effect. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and further postponement is not possible. Today’s generation will have to shoulder and address the accumulated environmental deficit, hopefully reducing its effect on future generations.

Policy needs to be approached in a holistic manner, focusing simultaneously on social environmental and economic considerations. It is not a question of an artificial balance between the economy, the environment and social policy but of acting correctly, preferably each and every time. A policy, which is economically sound but socially and/or environmentally wobbly, is of no use and should be discarded. The reverse side is already common practice as socially and environmentally sound policies are rarely applied if they do not pass the test of economic viability.

I acknowledge that this is quite a hard nut to crack, as it will require revisiting practically all areas of policy. Some areas will require minor policy adjustments while others will require a complete overhaul. In some areas action has already commenced. In others, action is incomprehensible at this stage given the current prevalent mindset.

The politics of sustainable development is concerned with redirecting economic activity such that this is compatible with ecological and social requirements. The environment, the economy and social needs are thus placed on the same level when decisions are taken. Throughout the years economic decisions have generally taken into consideration their social impacts. As a result, various measures have been introduced to mitigate and/or prevent negative social effects. The politics of social solidarity as developed has assisted in the transition from a free market economy to a social market economy.

The politics of sustainable development is the means leading to the next transition: an ecocentric economy. The environmental impacts of social and economic policy require attention at the drawing board rather than mitigation after they have occurred. In order for this to occur, it is required that instead of facing the effects we direct our energies to tackle the causes. It is for this reason that the Environment Protection Act of 2001 provides in Section 8 for the setting up of a National Sustainability Commission entrusted with the drafting of a National Strategy for Sustainable Development for the Maltese Islands. The Commission has laboured between 2002 and 2006 to produce a draft, which was concluded and presented to Cabinet for approval in December 2006. Cabinet approved it late in 2007.

In the public sector, the government’s adoption of the principles of sustainable development should spur action on three levels – tackling upstream impacts, direct impacts and downstream impacts. This will necessarily filter through to the private sector that will effectively have no choice but to proceed on similar lines. The government would be leading by example.

Some time last year, the government had commenced an exercise which should eventually lead to a system of public sector green purchasing, whereby non-economic criteria are inbuilt into tender documents. This would not only entail conditions of environmental importance, but also ones of social relevance. We have not heard much on developments to date except declarations during the March 2008 election campaign, and some echoes

afterwards that when contracting-out for services, the public sector will be on the look out for the conditions of work of the employees of those who take part in the tendering process. This was stated because a miniscule part of the private sector is being very innovative when it comes to determining the manner of circumventing the acquired rights of its employees. While the government is certainly hitting the right note when it identified the rights of those employed by bidders for public tenders as ripe for scrutiny, I believe that it is well past the stage of declarations. Concrete action is urgently required.

The public sector will properly manage its upstream impacts only if it ensures that all those who supply it with goods and services do so in a manner that is socially just and environmentally responsible.

The direct impacts of the public sector are the most obvious ones. The appointment of Green Leaders in different ministries and authorities was a step in the right direction as it set the foundations for a culture change among public sector employees. It can lead to quick results (known in environmental management as the “low lying fruit”) in areas related to energy and water consumption, use of stationery, other materials and equipment and waste management among others. The appointment of green leaders can thus set the public sector on the road leading to eco-efficiency.

However, an emphasis on the public sector downstream impacts will be that which eventually could make the major difference. The effects on those at the receiving end of the public sector will not only determine “value for money” but also, more importantly, in my view, it will determine whether the public sector is eco-effective.

The first on the list would be public sector employees themselves and the effects of the fixed term contract on their morale and professional conduct. Subsequently, each policy must be examined for its ecological impact while searching for alternative methods of implementation, which would reduce or preferably eliminate its undesirable impacts.

Managing the social and environmental impacts of the public sector is of paramount importance in the path leading to sustainable development. This will involve the individual policies that need to be analysed in detail. Value for money is not the only criterion used to assess whether public monies have been well spent. When this is taken in hand the public sector would have commenced trekking on the long road of sustainable development. The first steps are the most difficult. Translating rhetoric into action is only possible if the original rhetoric is a reflection of an inner conviction.

Only time will tell.

Il-Posta ……………. fil-Kanada

 

  

 

Il-Posta fil-Canada ippubblikat l-ewwel rapport tagħha dwar ir-responsabbilta soċjali. Dan ir-rapport huwa intitolat Acting Responsibly. Social Responsibility Report 2007.

Huwa rapport importanti għax fil-qasam tas-settur pubbliku ftit hemm rapporti ta’ din ix-xorta.

Bħal kull CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) report ieħor dan ir-rapport ifittex jispjega kif l-operat tal-Posta fil-Canada qed jaġixxi biex ikollu impatti soċjali u ambjentali pożittivi. Ir-rapport ifittex li janalizza l-ħidma tal-posta Kanadiża fid-dawl tal-prinċipji tas-sostenibilita’: ċjoe li l-ħidma tal-posta m’għandiex tkun biss waħda vijabbli ekonomikament iżda għandha tfittex ukoll il-ġid soċjali tal-komunita’ li fiha hi preżenti, kif ukoll li għandha tassigura li l-impatti ambjentali tagħha jkunu l-minimu possibli. Ir-rapport jittratta ukoll materji ta’ etika.

Bħal kull CSR report ieħor dan ir-rapport tal-Posta Kanadiża jikkonsidra kemm l-operat intern tal-posta innifisha, il-mod kif taħdem u kif tittratta l-impjegati tagħha (saħħa u sigurta’ fuq il-post tax-xogħol, relazzjonijiet industrijali), il-policy interna ta’ whistleblowing   bħala deterrent għal abbużi li jistgħu jinqalgħu minn żmien għal żmien, il-politika dwar id-diversita’ fuq il-post tax-xogħol, ir-rispett lejn id-drittijiet umani kif ukoll dak li jissejjaħ disability management, jiġifieri l-mod kif fuq il-post tax-xogħol il-posta Kanadiża tfittex li tgħin lil min iweġġa’ jew ikollu disabilita u per konsegwenza ma jkunx jista’ jagħmel ix-xogħol kollu normali tiegħu.

Filwaqt li jitkellem dwar id-donazzjonijiet u sponsorships  ir-rapport jiffoka fuq l-għajnuna li l-Posta Kanadiża tagħti lill-għaqdiet li jaħdmu fuq l-issue tas-saħħa mentali.

 

Kif mistenni parti importanti mir-rapport jiffoka fuq l-impatti ambjentali tal-posta, fuq ir-riċiklaġġ tal-iskart, fuq l-impatti klimatiċi tal-ħidma tal-posta u fuq kif il-bini minn fejn topera l-posta qed ikun iddisinjat ħalli jnaqqas l-impatt negattiv fuq l-ambjent (green design).

It-target tal-posta kanadiża huwa li fuq perjodu ta’ 10 snin inaqqas l-emissjonijiet ta’ greenhouse gases b’14% fuq dawk tal-2002. Il-Canada għandha waħda mill-iżgħar densitajiet ta’ popolazzjoni fid-dinja (ftit iktar minn 3 persuni għal kull kilometru kwadru) u allura huwa ftit diffiċli li tilħaq targets għoljin għal tnaqqis ta’ konsum ta’ fuel. F’dan il-kuntest allura tipprova tinkoraġixxi lill-impjegati tagħha biex ifittxu metodi alternattivi dwar kif imorru x-xogħol, bil-bicycle jew bil-mixi fost oħrajn.

Dan it-tip ta’ rapport huwa ta’ għajnuna kbira għall-komunita li fih isir. Għax barra li matul is-sena tkun saret ħidma siewja, wara jgħin biex din il-ħidma titqiegħed taħt il-lenti bl-iskop li għas-sena ta’ wara tkun aħjar.

 

U aħna f’Malta? Bħas-soltu għadna lura. Dwar is-CSR inpaċpċu ħafna, iżda nieqfu hemm. 

ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog :   

https://carmelcacopardo.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/bovs-csr-the-next-step/

https://carmelcacopardo.wordpress.com/2008/04/07/csr-day/