The GSD kept up the pressure on Chief Minister Fabian Picardo over the £300m estates’ deal yesterday, insisting that he continued to avoid answering questions about how his government planned to spend the money raised.
In the latest statement in a strong of exchanges on the issue, the GSD said Mr Picardo was “…unwilling to be subjected to any form of scrutiny on how he is utilising £275 million of net cash raised from mortgaging the six housing estates and instead choses to treat Parliamentarians with contempt and attack them personally.”
The GSD was responding to a government statement in which No.6 Convent Place had been critical of Opposition MP Roy Clinton, who has relentlessly asked questions about the deal and how the government would invest the money.
The government has dismissed Mr Clinton’s criticism as “scare tactics” and said his analysis lacked any credibility.
But yesterday, Mr Clinton hit back, saying the “contempt” shown to him by Mr Picardo was “as lamentable as it is laughable”.
“Being unwilling to explain where the £275 million has gone, for which he is responsible as Minister for Finance, he now tries to undermine my credibility as he might with an expert witness in court,” Mr Clinton said.
“For the record then, I am a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (FCA), a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (FCIB) an Associate Member of the Association of Corporate Treasurers (AMCT) and a member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (MCSI).”
“I also have a degree in Commerce (BCom) and a degree in Financial Services (BSc).”
“All of which I think proves me far more qualified in finance than Mr Picardo or anyone in his cabinet with or without honorific titles.”
Mr Clinton hit back too at Mr Picardo’s suggestion that Mr Clinton, speaking on GBC’s Viewpoint last year, had told interview Jonathan Scott he too would have done the £300m transaction and that it was good value for money.
“Mr Picardo may have wished I had said that and puts words into my mouth to that end in a cheap trick, but what I said could never be construed in that way and Viewpoint on 16 February 2017 on the £300 million can be watched on replay on GBC’s website,” Mr Clinton said.
The GSD MP also countered the government’s claim that he had mixed up capital and recurrent expenditure during his budget speech in respect of comments on spending earmarked for the University of Gibraltar.
Mr Picardo had used that as a way of questioning Mr Clinton’s analysis of the numbers.
But yesterday Mr Clinton, quoting from Hansard, said that at the time of the Budget, he had been underlining the fact that Parliament was being asked to approve a tripling of the university’s 2019 budget to £1.5m, even though the university’s accounts for the 2016-2017 financial year had not been finalised and MPs had not had sight of its financial statements.
“It was in fact his Government who mixed the recurrent expenditure on the consolidated fund with that of capital already expended through the Improvement and Development Fund,” Mr Clinton said.
At the time of the Budget, Mr Clinton had tweeted: “Minister for the University needs to attend one of its accountancy courses. Doesn’t know difference between capital spend and recurrent expenditure. Last year’s capital spend was £1.4 million and £500,000 recurrent expenditure. This year estimated recurrent spend is £1.5 million!”
Mr Clinton accused Mr Picardo of “wriggling on his self-made £275 million hook”.
“The more he struggles to bury me and my public finance questions, the more desperate and ridiculous he becomes,” he said.
“This is transparency and democracy Picardo style, Gibraltar deserves better in a Chief Minister.”