The Gibraltar Health Authority’s ongoing financial performance will no longer be disclosed on a quarterly basis following an “executive decision” to remove financial reports from the public part of GHA Board meetings.
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 at last Friday’s GHA Board meeting, the quarterly report prepared by the Director of Finance and Procurement was omitted from the agenda, the fourth consecutive meeting where financial information has been held back.
The Minister for Health, Neil Costa, acknowledged that the Director of Finance and Procurement had previously provided summaries on financial performance for inclusion in the public report in the past.
“Since the board meeting of September 2016, a decision was taken by the GHA’s executive team not to include financial information in the public reports,” Mr Costa said, adding that the GHA’s financial information is published annually in the Government Approved Estimates book.
This means quarterly updates on the GHA’s finances will no longer be publicly available and from now on, the financial reports will be discussed privately during an ‘in-camera’ session of the GHA Board.
Past reports – even those without financial information – had also included details of ongoing spending as part of the report prepared by the Chief Executive, a role now taken over by the Medical Director.
But as a result of the policy decision taken by the government, the Medical Director’s report no longer makes any reference to financial matters.
The contents of the most recent Medical Director’s assessment titled ‘Return GHA into financial balance, ensure value for money’ was omitted from the public document issued prior to Friday’s board meeting, and was discussed during the private part of the session.
The Board meetings are split in two parts, the first being the public session followed by an in-camera session solely for Board members.
As in other areas of official business, the government believes a degree of confidentiality is necessary in many of these discussions because they touch on potentially commercially sensitive issues, meaning public discussion could hinder the GHA’s ability to secure the best options for the taxpayer.
But the tighter control on financial information has raised concerns on the Opposition bench.
GSD MPs Roy Clinton and Elliott Phillips attended the public session of Board meeting and highlighted concerns in the lack of financial information publicly available.
“I am concerned that financial information in respect of the GHA’s expenditure is not being made public by the board as it did in the past,” Mr Clinton said.
“I am surprised to see that there is no longer a report from the Director of Finance and Procurement and I will be raising this in Parliament in the future.”
“Given the £15m overspend in 2016/2017 and the Government’s pledge to contain within the budget. I find the lack of financial transparency by the board questionable.”
The GHA Board is meant to meet quarterly to discuss updates but has not done so since 2012, having only met twice in 2017.
Yesterday’s meeting covered two quarters between July and December 2017 with the public session lasting under 20 minutes.