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Have you ever gotten the distinct impression that certain government departments seem to be kept together thanks to the soul-crushing work of one individual who seems to know what they’re doing while everyone else faffs about?

Well, according to the National Audit Office’s (NAO) latest annual report, this was exactly the case in at least one particularly extreme instance which it attempted to document.

As described in the NAO’s comprehensive 318-page document, which this website has reviewed in forensic detail for the purposes of this analysis, one of the entities which were reviewed was the Welfare Committee, an entity which is entrusted with the administration of funds for the benefit of elderly residents in state-run homes. When the audit was being carried out, the committee fell under the remit of social justice minister Michael Falzon.

While you may think that this committee sounds obscure and relatively unimportant, the fact is that in 2022 alone, it had an operational budget amounting to over €4.3 million, €3.6 million of which were directly allocated to the committee through the public purse. So how does this committee adequately keep track of its finances, you may ask? Well, simply put, it didn’t. The NAO prefaced its comment about the Welfare Committee with a disclaimer.

“The Welfare Committee kept most of its records manually and the little electronic data maintained was generally incomplete. Details requested for audit purposes from the Administrator were not readily available and had to be compiled on demand after poring over numerous manual documents. Notwithstanding the substantial amounts involved, the situation was an extreme case of incomplete records and in view of the absence of fundamental information, testing was neither comprehensive nor exhaustive.”

The NAO’s probably incredulous auditors were faced with a situation in which one evidently overwhelmed administrator was overseeing millions of euros of funding using a notepad and a pen.

While this was a particularly extreme scenario in which there was a total lack of accountability, it does serve as a useful example of the wider problem that this government has created by design – when there is no proper, documented, and verifiable paper trail, how can one even know whether the accounting books are being cooked or whether they are portraying an accurate picture of the finances of any given entity?

The answer is that you can’t ever know, because we are not talking about budgeting for a month’s worth of groceries here. Even with something as small-scale as a few hundred euros a month, it is impossible to adequately consider every expense unless said expenses are documented and verified as such. In the case of a dodgy government that is known for its disregard for public procurement protocols, the accountability vacuum expands, to the tune of several hundreds of millions of euros from your money.

Even the NAO itself, the country’s foremost body of auditors whose sole occupation is to monitor and document government spending, cannot possibly hope to trace all the instances of malfeasance, and it is forced to rely on samples of transactions rather than a full, wide-ranging audit that covers every single expenditure.

What these samples did manage to expose, however, is the way in which key decision-making representatives of the government – with a handful of exceptions like the Malta Council of Science and Technology, which was given a clean bill of health by the NAO – systematically fail to implement fundamental accountability protocols like taking minutes of meetings in which decisions were taken, providing a documented approval trail to ensure works were given the official go-ahead, and ensuring that defaulting suppliers or contractors are held accountable for delays. Several government entities were lambasted by the NAO for outright refusing to cooperate with the office’s requests.

So who’s responsible for all this? Which were the entities that failed the most at ensuring a basic level of accountability? What were the biggest issues that were highlighted? What language did the NAO use to describe what it found throughout its audits? My analysis of the report, along with the key findings that emerged from this analysis, can be found below.

Key findings

This is a list of all the entities which were audited by the National Audit Office in 2022.

It also includes a reference to the minister responsible for the entity under review, any disclaimers which the NAO made in relation to individual audits, a summary of each report, and the issues that were highlighted therein.

Click here for a full-screen version of this table.


Below is a data chart that is populated with 120 keywords which the National Audit Office used in its report (click here for full-screen version).

Keywords were only included if they served a descriptive function – either to describe an action taken by the Office, or a word used by the Office to describe the audited entity’s performance.

Any keywords which were repeated or not serving a descriptive function were ignored. Keywords in titles, names, and footnotes were also excluded to make the chart as accurate as possible.

As you can see above, the overwhelming majority of descriptors were negative. Hover your mouse over each circle to see which words were used.

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