Only 50% of National Audit Office recommendations were implemented in 2017

Out of the 169 recommendations made by the National Audit Office (NAO), only 50% were accepted and implemented.

In its 2017 work and activities report, the NAO said that as from last year it started effectively monitoring on a regular basis the level of implementation of recommendations included in the various reports falling under the Financial and Compliance, Performance, and Special Audits and Investigations Sections.

From the 169 recommendations made in the original 11 audit reports subjected to follow-ups, only 50% were fully implemented while another 31% were accepted and partially implemented.

18% of the NAO recommendations were accepted but not implemented while only one of the recommendations was rejected.

Among others, last year the NAO published an investigation of property transfers between 2006 and 2013, including the expropriation of a property at Fekruna Bay in Xemxija. In its report, the NAO criticised the lack of documentation in the Fekruna expropriation which was mired in political controversy.

The NAO report had concluded that the lack of documentation retained on file by the Land Department effectively impeded the office from establishing key developments.

Days before the 2013 election, the Land Department had signed a contract transferring two properties, one in Swieqi and another in San Ġwann, worth €4.3 million jointly as payment for land expropriated at Fekruna Bay, Xemxija.

The Fekruna land was valued at €5 million, and the difference, €700,000, in favour of Fekruna Ltd, was offset against amounts due to the government by the company in lieu of capital gains tax and duty on documents.

While the NAO noted that a committee was specifically set up to carry out the negotiations to guarantee more transparency and additional safeguards, the report said that no records of negotiations with the company were retained, no minutes of meetings were kept and no documentation of correspondence were made available.

This, the report said, detracted from the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency.

In a separate investigation, the NAO flagged serious shortcomings in the sale of a St Julian’s property worth €2.4 million for just €525,000 in 2012, citing an “element of ministerial involvement”.

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