On 19 December 2017, the Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government requested the National Audit Office (NAO) to review the findings of the Local Governance Board, where it was concluded that there had been a breach of the Local Councils Act and the Financial Regulations, following a series of allegations that were raised against the Mayor of St. Paul’s Bay Local Council. These allegations were brought to the attention of the Board by the Minority Leader of the aforementioned Local Council, on behalf of all the Councillors representing the Labour Party in the same locality.
NAO endorses the Board’s conclusions on seven of the allegations. On the other hand, NAO cannot agree with one of the decisions reached by the Governance Board, namely that there was a breach of the financial regulations when not requesting a mid-term audit on the appointment of the Mayor. Indeed, audit regulations clearly stipulate that a mid-term audit is required upon the appointment of an Executive Secretary, not the Mayor.
With respect to the illegal traffic signs, which allegation was confirmed by the Governance Board, NAO has its reservations, in view that interviews with the relevant stakeholders revealed that the concern merely related to road markings in one particular street in St. Paul’s Bay, which markings have been in place, at least, since 2005. It also transpired that both the Minority Leader and the then Mayor questioned the feasibility of the recommendation given by the Board, to carry out an audit on the traffic signs in the locality and produce a report highlighting any remedial action.
The case concerning the allegation on the Burmarrad Administrative Committee was not examined by the Board since it was already investigated by the Monitoring Unit (DLG) but NAO confirmed that no meetings were held by the Administrative Committee between the period 17 June 2015 to 16 January 2017.
Following this investigation NAO concluded that most of the issues raised related to administrative shortcomings that, unfortunately, tend to be applicable in a number of Local Councils and which, year after year, are highlighted in the report by the Auditor General on the Workings of Local Government. Some of the shortcomings were directly attributed to the fact that the Council was not adequately manned, despite the locality’s highest population in the country with over 23,000 citizens. Most of the Mayor’s tenure was also characterized by the fact that there was an Acting Executive Secretary working only limited hours and therefore focusing solely on essential day to day needs.
The investigation undertaken did not elicit any evidence that the former Mayor used her influence to gain an unfair advantage or to make unwarranted personal gain.
To view report (.PDF) please follow link.