Govt and Opposition clash over transparency

The GSD has accused the Gibraltar Government of ‘failing to facilitate’ the flow of financial or other important information to Parliament, drawing a stern rebuttal from No 6 Convent Place.

The GSD said that ‘despite preaching transparency’ the Government had ‘unhelpfully’ suggested that Opposition members conduct searches for information themselves during last week’s question and answer session of Parliament.

But the Government countered that some of the information requested was the responsibility of the Gibraltar International Bank, which was independently.

In other cases, it added, the GSD was seeking a ‘silver service delivery’ of information that was already publically available.

GSD

This was the latest exchange prompted by last week’s session of Parliament, which continues today.

“The Government has told the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham to conduct multiple searches at the Land Registry to work out how many mortgages have been granted by the Gibraltar International Bank in respect of low cost housing which is evidently impractical, and Roy Clinton was told to go to Companies House to obtain a copy their accounts,” the GSD said.

GSD MP with shadow responsibility for public finance Roy Clinton stated: “I asked a simple question in Parliament last week in relation to the provision of the audited accounts of the Gibraltar International Bank.”

“The response from the Government was unhelpful stating that I could obtain these from Companies House along with the public in due course and the Chief Minister then took it upon himself to mock the request stating that he was not a messenger.”

“Given this discourteous attitude, yesterday I wrote to the Chief Executive Officer of the Bank as an Opposition MP requesting that the Board of the Bank consider sending a copy of their audited accounts to me in Parliament when they are available. This is a nationally owned bank and thus of public and parliamentary interest.”

GOVT REACTS

Mr Clinton’s comments later drew flack from the Government who said it was “extraordinary” that he should be treated in a ‘special way’ and not like a normal member of the public.

“The information he requests on the Gibraltar International Bank will be available to members of the public at Companies House but Mr Clinton demands that he is given his own private copy,” No. 6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“Having been told in Parliament that he can obtain these documents at Companies House at the appropriate time and in accordance with the Companies Act, he has now written to the Bank’s CEO to request a personal copy for himself.”

The Government said this is an illustration of the “extreme self-importance Mr Clinton ascribes to himself”.

If information is publically available then the Opposition have access to it and Members can obtain it for themselves, the Government said.

The Government said it is working to deliver its manifesto for the benefit of the Community as a whole.

“The question to ask is why Mr Clinton, who is a full time Opposition MP earning a healthy salary to attend Parliament ten times in one year, thinks he should not obtain the public information for himself, like every other member of the public.”

In the case of the Bank, the GSLP-Liberal Government and the former GSD leader, Sir Peter Caruana, were both very clear at the time of its establishment that it should be run entirely independently. That is exactly what has been happening, the Government said.

“Mr Clinton now proposes that we should instruct the Board of the Bank to send him a copy of the accounts directly and for free.”

The Government said this flies in the face of the independence of the Bank which the GSLP-Liberal Government has fought to preserve and which the GSD would clearly pay scant regard to if they were ever elected.

“Similarly, the question from Mr Feetham asking about the number of mortgages is not one the Government is refusing to answer. What Minister Isola told the Parliament is that the Government does not have the information and therefore is unable to provide it.”

The Government added that all relevant information will be provided in the Bank’s Annual report which will be public and available to all.

The Minister for Financial Services, Albert Isola, said: “It is really quite remarkable to hear Mr Clinton say we should be interfering with the running of the Gibraltar International Bank in order to direct the delivery to him of information which will in any event be public.”

“It is incredible that he feels we should deliver a personal copy to him, when a simple online search will deliver the information he requires. It begs the question of what Mr Clinton is doing all day if he doesn’t have the time to do this himself! We are being 100% loyal to the principle of the independence of the Bank, whilst also providing the information we have and pointing to public information that is readily available for Mr Clinton to obtain with minimum effort.”

“But these exchanges do disclose just how precious Mr Clinton seems to be about actually doing anything for himself, expecting us to provide ‘silver service’ delivery even of publically available information. On his healthy salary, Mr Clinton has one of the best part-time jobs in Gibraltar.”

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