Thursday, February 10, 2005

Opposition concern over ‘cash strapped department’

Building & Works

GSLP/Libs Opposition yesterday criticised comments made by Peter Caruana Chief Minister in an interview where he was asked to comment on the rumour that the Building and Works Department was facing difficulties because of shortage of funds. Opposition spokesman on Housing, Charles Bruzon, said that it was a matter for concern that if additional work was not being carried out because of spending control it would mean longer delays for tenants who reported defects.

Mr Caruana repeated his often used argument that the Government has no shortage of money and that it is merely a question of requiring departments not to exceed the amounts approved at Budget time. He then went on to say that he was surprised at this rumour in particular because the Buildings and Works Department was one of the better departments at keeping to the Original Budget and not exceeding it, ” he said.

The Opposition claim that this is “another example of how limited Mr Caruana’s grasp of these issues is”.

The Building and Works Department last year spent £1.285m on materials to carry out repairs. This year that budget was reduced by Government to £950,000. It must be obvious to everyone that if the amount provided for this year is less than the amount spent last year then we are talking about a cutback in Government spend to arrive at the Approved Budget. However, last year’s figure of £1.285m was itself an excess over the £950,000 of the April 2003 Approved Budget.


The Opposition states that it is obvious that the quantity of materials that is purchased and used in any Financial Year is related to the amount of work carried out by the department.

“In the past when more money has been spent than was in the Original Budget the Minister for Housing has explained that this has been due to higher productivity by the employees resulting in more repairs being carried out. Now it seems that higher productivity is not a good thing and is to be discouraged because observing budgetary discipline is more important and not, so the Government claims, because there is a cash problem.

As a result of the department having to stick to the reduced Approved Budget this year it seems that they are currently not able to do as much work as they did the previous year. Tenants have approached the Opposition complaining that many of the repairs that traditionally had been dealt with by the department are no longer being accepted when reported and that this appears to be directly related to shortage of materials as a result of the spending limits being rigidly imposed by contrast to what happened in 2003/04.

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