Friday, February 04, 2005

Caruana penny wise and pound foolish, says Montegriffo

GSLP/Libs has declared that they find it quite incredible that the Government should continue to argue that its policy is to require public spending to be kept to the amounts approved at budget time by the House of Assembly.

They have also accused Chief Minister Peter Caruana of being “penny wise and pound foolish in his attitude to controlling public spending.”

In a statement to the Chronicle yesterday, Opposition spokeswoman for Health Mari Montegriffo said:

In this year’s budget the Minister for Health, Ernest Britto, sought approval for a sum of £400,000 to meet the fees of the consultancy on clinical governance in the Health Service for the twelve months from 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2005. However, in November 2004, the Government transferred a further sum of £350,000 to pay additional fees for this consultancy, exceeding the original amount for the year by no less than 87.5%. As if this were not enough a further £200,000 was provided in January of this year, bringing excess expenditure in this head to £550,000 an increase of 137.5% over the amount in the approved budget which had been £400,000.

It’s a bit rich, therefore, for the Chief Minister to say, as he did recently to the business community – “If the Government exercises normal and prudent budget discipline by requiring Departments to stick to the spending authorised by the House of Assembly (which, by the way, is a legal requirement), this too is presented as a shortage of money.

He then accused the Opposition of having a philosophy that the sound management of our collective finances is to allow everybody to spend as much public money as they like, every year, year in year out adding that this was not serious economics and not even kitchen economics. It is a moot point just what kind of economics Mr Caruana thinks it is, to exceed the budget approved by the House on one particular item, by well over half a million pounds.

The Opposition considers that the responsibility for expenditure on some things is what creates the restrictions on the availability of funds for other things, and that this is the exercise of judgment for which the Government is politically answerable.

Commenting on the situation, Mari Montegriffo said that the fact that Mr Caruana quotes as evidence of the Government’s normal and prudent budgetary discipline, the decision to repair a broken down motorbike, and at the same time is quite relaxed about exceeding fees paid to experts for consultancies by more than half a million pounds, suggests that Mr Caruana is being penny wise and pound foolish in his attitude to controlling public spending.


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