Good Causes Fund already taken up by 2014 commitments – NAO

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http://cdn.gozonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/NAO.jpgThe Auditor General has presented to the Speaker the Report entitled ‘An Analysis of the National Lotteries Good Causes Fund’ (NLGCF), commissioned by the Minister for Finance.

The investigation addressed the concerns raised by the Minister, namely the manner in which the NLGCF was administered and the alleged fact that at the time of change in administration, the Fund was significantly over-committed.

NAO’s analysis indicated that honouring all commitments entered into between January 2011 and March 2013, that are plausibly or actually due by 2013 and 2014, will entail the utilisation of approximately all of the NLGCF’s available funds up to end 2014.

The NLGCF was set up under the Lotteries and Other Games Act (2008, Cap 438) and is intended to support and partially fund projects and initiatives of a philanthropic, cultural, sports, educational, social, religious or civic nature, or other deserving causes, proposed by individuals and non-governmental organisations.

An Advisory Board is appointed to administer the Fund. Applications for funding are reviewed by the Board and are recommended for the approval or refusal of the Minister for Finance.

The Fund generates its income through a percentage contributed from tax payable on gaming activity, unclaimed prizes and interest earned on its account. The average annual income of NLGCF amounts to approximately €1.7 million.

In addition to other shortcomings identified, the National Audit Office (NAO) concluded that commitments made out of NLGCF effectively bound funds well into the future, to the possible detriment of other deserving causes.

NAO said that it is fully aware of the fact that the Guidelines for the approval of projects and initiatives are not legally binding, good governance would dictate further efforts at adhering to the Guideline’s provisions.

“Shortcomings in this regard including instances where the funding parameters were not respected with instances where the thresholds for grants out of NLGCF were surpassed. Reasons for approval of funding outside of the parameters established by the Guidelines were not always clearly indicated in the Board’s report.”

The NAO said that data relating to the NLGCF, although maintained, was fragmented, with no one comprehensive source that included all the relevant information for each application. Since the NLGCF is accounted for on a cash basis, it rendered the task of keeping track of all commitments that had previously been made when approving new applications even more onerous.

Various recommendations put forward by NAO are directed at addressing the shortcomings identified with respect to the administration of this fund, including provisions intended at regulating how the total of commitments not yet settled should not exceed a certain amount above or a percentage of the actual balance held in the NLGCF account at any given time.

Furthermore, NAO said that it recommends that a time limit on commitments be introduced, whereby a date from the issue of the commitment letter is stipulated as the deadline for the completion of the project and consequent entitlement to funding. As things stand, commitments never effectively become time barred.

Finally, the provisions of the Guidelines should be adhered to with regard to thresholds and parameters of funding out of the NLGCF, including the requisite co-financing by beneficiaries and the presentation of evidence of the completed project.

The Report may be accessed through this link to the NAO website, or by visiting www.nao.gov.mt.

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