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Audit Office Throws Ball In Police’s Court For ‘Criminal Investigation’ Into Misuse Of Public Funds By Ministers

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Ministers who misused public resources on Facebook will only face further consequences if the police take action, since the National Audit Office will not pursue the matter retroactively.

After a damning report by the Standards Commissioner finding “widespread misuse of public resources”, the NAO pledged to check whether new guidelines introduced by government were being followed and “whether there exists any other risk to public funds”.

But when Lovin Malta asked the NAO whether it would carry out an audit of public money spent by ministers on their personal Facebook pages in past years, the NAO said it “does not have the mandate or the tools to carry out a criminal investigation”.

“Considering that the assignment carried out by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life yielded a number of recommendations which were taken on board by the Government, we believe there would be no added value to carry out an audit at this stage but will include this area in our plans,” the NAO said.

This statement puts the onus on the police force which has yet to react to calls for it to investigate whether these actions constituted the misappropriation of public funds for personal gain.

Several calls have been made for the Auditor General to launch an investigation into whether ministers should repay the money they misused, including from the Nationalist Party and civil society NGO Repubblika.

The Nationalist Party also reported the matter to the police.

The government has not yet published its official social media code to ministers but the Standards Commissioner said that he found it to be satisfactory and that it adopted his own recommended guidelines too.

Lovin Malta had alerted the Standards Commissioner to this widespread misuse after it emerged that at least €25,000 was being spent by government on Facebook boosts every month despite most ministries not having a Facebook page of their own. It emerged that ministers were using public money to boost their own private accounts instead of official accounts belonging to the ministries.

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