16 March 2005

The Web

Education Minister, Auditor General in head-on confrontation
Education Minister Louis Galea has hit back at the Auditor General for his report into the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools, saying he will take it “to bits”.
Auditor General Joseph G. Galea told our sister paper MaltaToday last Sunday that he will continue doing his job as authorised by the Constitution, but he would only make a declaration himself about government’s accounts in his reports and in Parliament.
“I declare myself about government’s accounts only in my reports,” the auditor general said. “I’m answerable to Parliament, and like judges who give sentences, I give my conclusions, and like judges I won’t comment about public reactions.”
But the education minister made it clear last Monday that he was not accepting the auditor’s report. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had previously opened a broadside on the Auditor General during this month’s press briefing by saying that the auditor’s accusations of financial irregularities at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools under Education Minister Louis Galea’s responsibility were “unacceptable”.
Gonzi defended his minister and lambasted the auditor general for his investigation into irregular contracts and direct orders issued by the Foundation. He said it was unacceptable that the auditor did not “acknowledge that measures were taken to rectify the situation”.
Now the minister is promising to issue a report in reply to the Auditor General, whose report he described to The Times as “shoddy and littered with mistakes”.
“We would have preferred not to have to do this,” the minister said. “Had the Auditor General given the foundation a copy of the draft report, the inaccuracies it contains would have been highlighted internally and the Auditor would have had the opportunity to verify that things were not as he portrayed them to be," Dr Galea said.
Although the Auditor General has remained impressively reticent following the prime minister’s and the minister’s outbursts, he did say in previous interviews that his office was meticulous in gathering information that would end up in its audit reports.
“We try not to take anybody by surprise,” Galea said four years ago, explaining how people subjected to his reports are always informed about investigations and their explanations meticulously sought by his office. “We are watchdogs but not policemen. If there is something that can be corrected, let’s correct it. On the other hand, if we agree to disagree, this will be written down in the final report.”

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