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PN says Muscat must ask NAO to publish audit into government credit cards The Nationalist Party has called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to ensure that an investigation by the Auditor General into the use of credit cards by government ministers, is published immediately. An own-initiative investigation by the National Audit Office into the use of government credit cards by officials and ministers has been completed, but remains unpublished, MaltaToday reported on Sunday. The investigation was completed some 10 months ago, but the NAO has not yet forwarded the inquiry to the Speaker of the House, where it would then be passed on to the public accounts committee. MaltaToday is informed that the audit completed an across-the-board survey of all credit card purchases employed by government ministers, with some spends going into the thousands during visits abroad… to minor purchases such as fast-food stopovers. The NAO did not deny the existence of the report when queried as to when it would be published: “The National Audit Office felt that the various investigations mandated to the Office by the Public Accounts Committee or the Minister for Finance should be given the highest priority,” a spokesperson for the NAO said – suggesting that the office was only granting those audits requested by the PAC importance. The PN said Joseph Muscat should ensure that the inquiry is published in the name of transparency and accountability. “It is in the people’s interest to know how their tax money has been spent, and for an explanation to be given for every cent that was spent by ministers through government-issued credit cards. This is particularly important when previous audits revealed excessive spends on alcoholic drinks by the ministry of Chris Cardona,” the PN said, referring to the NAO annual audit into ministerial spends. “Now that it is confirmed that the investigation has been finalised, the prime minister should ask the Auditor General to publish the results of this investigation.” The NAO remains the island’s sole independent institution to regularly monitor government spends and egregious use of taxpayers’ money. Its annual report is an appointment for journalists to pore over spurious cases of public procurement, direct orders, and general wastage of resources. Undoubtedly, the highlight of last year’s annual report was a €318 minibar bill for drinks consumed during an official visit to Dubai, where economy minister Chris Cardona gave an address in September 2015. The delegation that spent three nights in Dubai was flagged by the NAO for a hotel bill that included a total of €756 on alcoholic beverages – €318 of which were from the mini-bar. After publication of the case, the ministry said that the expenses emanated from the private room of Cardona’s chief of staff Mario Azzopardi, who accepted to refund the expenses incurred because the purchase was not considered to be related to official business. The NAO was also irked that a “politically-exposed person” – no name identified – was given advances for use during visits abroad in the form of cash, when other travelling officers received theirs by means of a credit transfer. In nine out of 10 official and ministerial trips reviewed by the NAO for testing, the breakdown of spending failed to include the actual air fares of €29,000, and one three-day trip to Monaco in May 2015 did not include €8,000 in accommodation expenses. When the complete invoice for the Monaco trip was requested by NAO to verify the nature of any additional charges, the ministry for the economy said that the full documentation was not available and “probably misplaced”.