The International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (Intosai) has expressed concern over the government’s refusal to convey information relating to the island’s citizenship by investment programme to the audit service, a move that sparked a political crisis that even threatened the economy.
“After conducting our own assessment of the case, we would like to inform you that we share the concerns of the audit service over the restrictions placed on its right of access to information,” Intosai said.
“We believe that this restriction, although described as temporary, conflicts with the spirit of the Lima and Mexico Declarations concerning the independence of Supreme Audit Institutions, and can possibly affect other aspects of independence, as is the right to decide on the completion time and publication of its reports.”
Intosai said it was not judging the lawfulness of this temporary refusal, since that was the job of local authorities, but it urged parties to launch a constructive dialogue to resolve the matter and create a favourable climate that will contribute to accountability and transparency.
The audit service welcomed the announcement, saying it now expected the government to review its position and allow the unobstructed audit of the controversial programme.
In a statement, the service said it had no doubt that its audit would not affect the work of an ongoing inquiry into the programme.
The government refused to hand over the information requested by the service, claiming it would affect the ongoing probe, especially if there were leaks or any findings published before the panel’s report.
The refusal was criticised by opposition Diko, which suggested the government had something to hide. The party refused to vote in favour of the state budget for 2021, as it traditionally did, unless the government gave up the information.
The budget failed to go through in December and had to be put to the vote anew, as the government made concessions to smaller parties to push it through or risk economic turbulence during an already difficult year.