The GSD is to ask the Principal Auditor to carry out an audit of Gibraltar Community Care’s accounts, with specific focus on its investments and loans.
The Opposition announced the move yesterday in response to what it described as an “evasive” response from the directors of Community Care to concerns raised by GSD MP Roy Clinton over an £85m loan made by the charity to an undisclosed company.
The GSD wants to know whether the government is the “indirect beneficiary” of the £85m loan from the charity, which it says has received £187m in public financing over the past five years.
On Wednesday the directors of Community Care expressed “dismay” at the GSD’s position, which it said had lumped the charity into its criticism of the Gibraltar Government.
They insisted Community Care always acted independently of government and had long made investments to maximise returns in accordance with the law, adding that the charity was under no obligation to provide Mr Clinton with details of those investments.
But the GSD countered yesterday that Community Care, as a publicly-funded charity, had a duty to ensure full transparency and accountability.
The party said the directors’ position “must raise serious concern”, especially as the accounts delivered to the Charities Commission did not disclose any information as to the recipient of the £85m loan.
The GSD said Mr Clinton, who shadows the public finance portfolio, will shortly be writing to the Principal Auditor requesting him to consider undertaking an audit of Community Care under section 61 and 62 of the Public Finance (Control and Audit) Act, specifically in respect of investments and loans.
“I would remind the directors of Gibraltar Community Care Limited that it was the GSLP/Liberals that made the level of its reserves a subject of political interest by referencing them in their 2015 Election Manifesto, calling them ‘Rainy Day Funds,” Mr Clinton said.
“It is unfortunate, therefore, that Gibraltar Community Care have chosen to be evasive by not providing the information that I asked for in the public interest.”
“The Government admits now that the figure of £100 million of reserves quoted by it as fact in 2015 was wrong and inflated by over 20%.”
“Furthermore, the Government are not increasing Community Care’s reserves, as in 2017/18 it granted it only £15 million, which is £5 million short of its annual costs of £20 million.”
“For these reasons, at the very least it is politically legitimate for the GSD Opposition to look into Community Care’s actual and projected financial position given the impact on the public purse.”
“Given that Gibraltar Community Care has received public monies and in turn loaned a large sum of public monies to an undisclosed entity, to what extent was the Government consulted or sanctioned the use of public funds in this opaque way?”
“Or is it the Government itself that was the indirect beneficiary of this mysterious £85 million loan and now wants to keep it quiet?”
“In the circumstances and given that Community Care have been in receipt of £187 million of taxpayer’s money in the five years to 30 June 2017 I feel it is my duty as a Parliamentarian to take this matter further by seeking an audit by the Principal Auditor.”
COMMUNITY CARE RESPONDS
Last night, the directors of Gibraltar Community Care Limited acknowledged Mr Clinton’s latest statement and reiterated that the charity would not be drawn into any public political debate with the GSD or any other political party.
“It is most unfortunate in this respect that Mr Clinton continues to involve GCC in his attempts to criticise Government,” the directors said in a statement.
“The directors reject Mr Clinton’s accusation of being evasive.”
“The position in this respect, is therefore rather simple: as trustees of a charity, they are duty-bound to adhere to on-going confidentiality obligations, and are under no obligation to provide Mr Clinton with details of its investments.”
The directors said they took note of Mr Clinton’s intention to ask the Principal Auditor to undertake an audit of GCC.
“The directors do not intend to reply any further to any of Mr Clinton’s statements,” the added.
“They will however, continue to protect the interests and rights of the Gibraltar’s resident pensioners, as GCC have done with our impeccable track record for the past thirty years, and will provide information as required by Gibraltar law.”