Il-gwerra tal-FKNK

turtle doves just shotturtle dove 2

 

Mela l-FKNK qaltilna li din hi gwerra. Ir-referendum, jiġifieri.

Damu ma ndunaw li din hi gwerra biex tieqaf il-qerda tal-għasafar. Hi gwerra li aħna tal-LE niġġielduha bil-ħsieb, mhux bis-senter. Bir-raġuni mhux bil-ġlied, l-insulti u t-tgħajjir.

Nhar il-11 t’April ser ngħidu LE għall-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa. LE għall-qerda. LE għall-gwerra kontra n-natura.

L-FKNK iridu gwerra li teqred. Hi l-opportunita biex ngħidulhom LE, għax fir-rebbiegħa aħna irridu s-sliem. Irridu ngawdu l-kampanja ………………. u mela gwerra.

 

Michael Falzon jiskuża ruħu

MFalzon apology

Mela Michael Falzon skuża ruħu. Fi stqarrija li ħareġ illum waranofsinnhar skuża ruħu bla riżervi talli ttradixxa l-fiduċja li bosta kellhom fih.

Huwa tajjeb li Michael Falzon għamel apoliġja pubblika, avolja tard.

Dam tlett ijiem biex għamilha, u għamilha biss għaliex inqabad.

 

Swiss cheese

Swiss cheese 2

Michael Falzon and Ninu Zammit, retired for some years from politics, are back in the news for the wrong reasons. Tax evasion and false declarations.

They have tried to give some explanations. Michael Falzon has attributed his accumulated investments in HSBC Geneve to his professional earnings from overseas clients between 1975 and 1985. Zammit went one further: in addition to professional earnings in approximately the same timeframe, he has stated that they have also accrued as a result of his land dealings.

It is news that Ninu Zammit had substantial earnings from his profession. Back in the 80s, in his income tax return he used to declare that he barely earned a minimum wage. Way back in the 80s a thick book used to be published by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue listing the income declared and the income tax paid in Malta by all taxable persons. I distinctly remember  that the book used to indicate that Ninu Zammit was one of the poorer chaps on the island then!

I do remember some years back reference to the company LENI Enterprises Co Ltd co-owned between Ninu Zammit and another member of his family. Maybe some enterprising journalist could carry out searches into the assets and liabilities of LENI Enterprises Co Ltd which could  possibly lead to some very interesting results.

Politics and dealings in land were never a good mix. History has proven time and again that such a mix generally produces the worst possible cocktail.

Both Falzon and Zammit have avoided criminal proceedings by making use of one of the amnesties launched over the years. By paying a fine and repatriating their Swiss funds they have been absolved of criminal action relative to tax evasion and infringement of currency rules.

Michael Falzon, when cornered,  admitted his role and in anticipation of the full story in the Sunday papers published his side of the story. Ninu Zammit, on the other hand, was arrogant and argued that his financial affairs were now in order and that as he was no longer in politics he should be left alone.

Both Falzon and Zammit occupied ministerial office. Falzon was minister for nine years between 1987 and 1996. Zammit was parliamentary secretary for nine years (1987-96) and a minister for another ten years (1998-2008). During these years, as from 1994, they filed annual declarations in terms of the Ministerial Code of Ethics supposedly declaring their assets. These declarations were filed in the Cabinet Office and subsequently the Prime Minister notified Parliament by presenting a copy of such declarations for its scrutiny.

It now results that Michael Falzon and Ninu Zammit through false declarations misguided Prime Ministers, Cabinet and Parliament.  No amnesty has or will absolve them of this.

Up till the time of writing, no public apology has been made by either Falzon or Zammit.

It is also unfortunate that so far, Parliament has no available remedy for  this serious breach of the Ministerial Code of Ethics by these two former Cabinet members.

Pending on Parliament’s agenda is a Bill entitled Standards in Public Life Bill. When approved into law this Bill will provide for the appointment of a Commissioner and a Standing Committee with the authority to investigate breaches of statutory or ethical duties of persons in public life.

In its present format, this Standards in Public Life Bill provides for investigations into ethical breaches such as those committed by Michael Falzon and Ninu Zammit only when the persons committing such breaches are still Members of Parliament.

Article 13 of the proposed Act in fact authorises the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life to examine declarations made pursuant to the Ministerial Code of Ethics. Unfortunately, the proposed Act does not contemplate action against former Members of Parliament.  Nor does it empower investigations on misdemeanours  going back more than two years.

Hopefully Parliament will revisit the Bill and amend it to empower the Commissioner and the Standing Committee to investigate similar cases. Falzon and Zammit should be made to pay for their false declarations to Cabinet and Parliament by being stripped of their Ministerial pensions. Anything less will make the Ministerial Code of Ethics resemble Swiss cheese.

published on The Malta Independent: 25th February 2015

Meta Michael Falzon u Ninu Zammit besqulna f’wiċċna

Minster's declaration

 

L-evazjoni tat-taxxa hi dejjem materja gravi. Jagħmilha min jagħmilha. F’kull żmien.

Imma l-evażjoni tat-taxxa li ammettew Michael Falzon u Ninu Zammit fi tmiem il-ġimgħa hi gravi ferm iktar. It-tnejn li huma, skond kif iddikjaraw lill-medja huma stess, għamlu użu minn amnestija li permezz tagħha ħallsu l-multi dovuti skond il-kundizzjonijiet ta’ dik l-amnestija. Il-multi li ħallsu ħelsuhom minn proċeduri kriminali għal dak li għamlu.

Imma hemm dnubiet ferm ikbar li la Michael Falzon u l-anqas Ninu Zammit għadhom m’għamlux pentitenza għalihom. L-anqas għad ma taw l-iċken indikazzjoni li jidmu minn dak li għamlu.

Mill-1994 lil hawn skond il-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Ministri u tal-Membri Parlamentari huma għamlu dikjarazzjonijiet dwar l-assi  li kienu jippossjedu. Bid-dikjarazzjoni tagħhom ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa Michael Falzon u Ninu Zammit ammettew li għamlu dikjarazzjoni falza quddiem il-Kabinett u quddiem il-Parlament.

Dan hu dnub kbir kontra l-istituzzjonijiet demokratiċi tal-pajjiż. Bid-dikjarazzjoni falza li għamlu quddiem il-Kabinett u quddiem il-Parlament Michael Falzon u Ninu Zammit besqu f’wiċċ kull min wera fiduċja fihom.

L-inqas li nistennew hi apoloġija pubblika. Minflok ikollna ir-reazzjoni arroganti ta’ Ninu Zammit li iddikjara li (issa) għandu kollox regolari u  l-għaliex m’għadux fil-Parlament għandu jitħalla bi kwietu.

Min besaq f’wiċċ l-istituzzjonijiet demokratiċi tal-pajjiż m’għandu l-ebda dritt li jitħalla bi kwietu.

Michael Falzon u Ninu Zammit

Michael Falzon.PN2        Ninu Zammit

Għamel tajjeb Simon Busuttil meta issospenda mill-Partit Nazzjonalista kemm lil Michael Falzon kif ukoll lil Ninu Zammit wara li dawn ammettew li għal xi snin kellhom flus depożitati f’Bank Svizzeru.

L-ammissjoni ta’ Michael Falzon u Ninu Zammit tfisser li waqt li kienu qed jokkupaw karigi Ministerjali, jinsistu ma kulħadd biex josserva l-liġi, huma stess kienu qed jiksruha b’mod sfaċċat.

Kif nistgħu nippretendu li n-nies tosserva l-liġi jekk dawn l-exMinistri kien jiksruha b’mod daqshekk sfaċċat? Mhux biss kisru l-liġi, imma fuq kollox ittradew lil min ħatarhom f’kariga ta’ responsabbilta Ministerjali.

 

 

Harvesting rainwater

flooding.Bkara

At the time of writing the average rainfall in Malta from 1st September 2014 to date is recorded at 442.4 mm. The actual rainfall varies from a high of 529.6mm recorded at Selmun to a low of 373.7mm noted at Valletta. With still some months to go, it seems that precipitation in the Maltese islands during the current year will shortly exceed the average annual precipitation of 553.12mm, computed by Charles Galdies in his National Statistics Office publication entitled The Climate of Malta: statistics, trends and analysis 1951-2010. It will however be far short of 955.62mm, the maximum recorded precipitation in Malta which was recorded at Luqa Airport in 1951.

Since 1880, legislation in Malta has specifically provided for the construction of water cisterns in buildings, primarily residential ones. The dimensions of these water cisterns varied over time. Originally they were related to the floor area of the residential building. Recently, the required volume was reduced to be related to the footprint of the building.

These regulatory provisions are however more honoured in the breach, even when reduced. This is not a recent phenomenon. Regulatory control in Malta has been in decline since the 1960s building boom.

Instead of being collected in rainwater cisterns, in an ever increasing number of cases, rainwater is discharged directly onto our roads, or else into the public sewers. As a result, navigating some of our roads during or immediately after heavy rainfall is a dangerous exercise.

This is a case of water literally going down the drain. Large volumes of storm water, which can be utilised for various purposes, are being wasted. Much has been written about the potential use of harvested rainwater. Its use domestically can substantially reduce water bills.

It is also an issue of civil protection. Large quantities of rainwater in our streets, at times moving at an excessive velocity, are a danger to life and limb. Fortunately, it is very rare for people to lose their life in storms in Malta, but damage to property is a more frequent occurrence.

When rainwater is discharged into our overburdened public sewers, not only does the water overflow onto our streets, but it also increases the costs of sewage purification unnecessarily. These costs are recovered through our water bills. Hence, in the end, we all pay the costs of this abuse, irrespective of whether we are participants or not.

The major culprits are a substantial portion of the developers of blocks of flats and maisonettes. The government, directly, as well as through its agencies, has also been responsible for the development of housing estates without providing for rainwater harvesting.

In particular, it is common knowledge that in cases where basement or semi-basement garages are constructed, the duty to provide for rainwater harvesting is very rarely complied with. Since 1992, MEPA has been responsible for determining and ensuring the observance of the conditions of development permits, which in most cases, specify the required capacity of a rainwater cistern.

The Water Services Corporation (WSC) has during the last years, taken over the responsibility for the management of the public sewers from the former Drainage Department. This responsibility includes authorising owners of newly- constructed properties to connect the drains with the public sewer.

Is the WSC verifying that it is only the drains that are connected and, in particular, that rainwater pipes are not connected to the public sewer too? The obvious answer is provided by our streets on a rainy day. No one is bothering to check what is connected to the public sewer . This leads to the conclusion that, while the culprit for the present state of affairs is the building industry as, more often than not, it does not provide for rainwater storage in new developments, it is not the only one to blame. The authorities and government departments must take a substantial share of the blame for not shouldering their regulatory responsibilities. They could have stopped the abuse, but they did not.

A number of areas are practically out of bounds whenever heavy or continuous rainfall hits the Maltese islands. This is a source of danger and, in fact, the Civil Protection Department is heavily involved in assisting residents or motorists who are trapped as a result of flooding. The Birkirkara local council had, some years back installed a storm warning system to alert residents and passers-by that, “danger was on the way”! Public authorities in Malta, unfortunately, have developed the habit of dealing with the effects but continuously ignore the cause of flooding!

Monies made available by the EU have been used to fund a project for the construction of underground tunnels through which it is planned to collect rainwater from our streets and roads and to discharge most of the collected storm water into the sea.

The EU funds utilised in the construction of these tunnels have been utilised to squander a very precious resource. European taxpayers’ monies too have been flushed down the drain. They could have been put to a much better use if they had been applied to address the lack of adequate rainwater harvesting in our towns and villages.

We have been inundated with political speeches lauding sustainability and sustainable development. However, when push comes to shove, it is more than amply clear that this is just a case of some Members of Parliament showing off a newly-acquired vocabulary they have not yet understood. In 2015, Malta still lacks a sustainable water policy.

Published in the Malta Independent on Sunday : 22 February 2015

L-amnestija ………… il-bjar fid-djar u l-ilma fit-toroq

Msida flooding

 

L-istennija għal dak li l-amnestija tal-MEPA ser tindirizza tkompli.

Sadanittant il-bieraħ it-Tlieta kellna ħafna xita  f’Malta (madwar 30 millimetru) u bosta mit-toroq kien fihom kwantita’ kbira ta’ ilma tax-xita għal ħinijiet twal.

Ktibt diversi drabi fuq dan il-blog dwar x’inhu jikkawża dan kollu. Il-bjar li suppost jinbnew mar-residenzi tagħna ftit għadhom jinbnew. Hemm ukoll diversi bjar eżistenti li m’humiex jintużaw inkellha huma żgħar wisq.

Issa suppost li għal dawn l-aħħar 135 sena f’Malta kellna l-obbligu li jkollna bir ma kull binja biex f’dan il-bir jinġabar l-ilma tax-xita. Fit-triq imbagħad ikun jista’ jintefa iż-żejjed, jiġifieri l-overflow.

Minkejja dan l-obbligu, l-bjar fid-djar ftit għadek issibhom. Minflok ma jinġabar, l-ilma tax-xita jintefa kollu fit-triq inkella fid-drenaġġ. Għalhekk meta tagħmel ħafna xita t-toroq ifuru bl-ilma, f’xi każi bid-drenaġġ. Kien hemm drabi li rajna  d-drenaġġ ifur mit-tappieri.

Għal dan kollu, barra min jiżviluppa (kemm fuq skala żgħira kif ukoll skala kbira), hi responsabbli l-MEPA li konsistentement tagħlaq għajn waħda u qiesu ma ġara xejn.

X’ser tgħid l-amnestija dwar in-nuqqas tal-bjar fid-djar, fil-flats u l-maisonettes?

 

ara ukoll fuq dan il-blog:

 

The Cost of Incompetence. 17 ta’ Jannar 2009

Water : A Long-Term view. 23 ta’ Mejju 2010

The Accumulated Cost of Incompetence. 7 ta’ Settembru 2012

L-amnestija tal-MEPA ……….. bis-sulluzzu

MEPA cartoon 2014

cartoon : Malta Today 6 April 2014

 

Il-bieraħ fuq TVam is-CEO tal-MEPA ħabbar ftit informazzjoni li tista’ tibda tlaħħam l-amnestija li l-MEPA qed tippjana.

Qal li l-amnestija mhiex immirata għall-kmamar tal-Armier u ta’ San Tumas. L-anqas ma hemm il-ħsieb, qal, li l-amnestija tkun applikata għall-iżvilupp irregolari li seħħ fuq art tal-Gvern.

Qal ukoll li żvilupp irregolari li seħħ barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp jista’ jkun ikkunsidrat biss jekk seħħ iktar minn għoxrin sena ilu. Jiġifieri irid ikun seħħ qabel l-1994.

Wara li fil-bidu ta’ Frar kienet ippubblikata l-ewwel storja fis-Sunday Times, din hi it-tieni darba li qed toħroġ biċċa informazzjoni dwar din l-amnestija. Fis-Sunday Times is-CEO tal-MEPA kien tkellem fuq affarijiet oħra li setgħu jkunu is-suġġett tal-amnestija tal-MEPA. Dakinnhar kien għamel emfasi fuq xi ftit pulzieri differenza fil-qisien tal-btieħi bħala raġuni ewlenija għall-amnestija li qed tinħema. Raġuni li ma tagħmilx sens għax il-liġijiet u policies eżistenti diġa jipprovdu għall-kazijiet ta’ ftit pulzieri differenza.

Din x’serjetà hi li l-informazzjoni toħroġ bis-sulluzzu?

Mhux aħjar jinħareġ dokument għal-konsultazzjoni pubblika fejn il-MEPA mhux biss tinforma eżatt x’qed tipproponi, imma tagħti wkoll il-raġunijiet li wassluha għall-proposti tagħha. Ikun tajjeb ukoll li l-MEPA tispjega ftit l-impatti ambjentali ta’ dak li ser tipproponi. Meta l-affarijiet isiru bis-serjetà hekk isiru.

Għax s’issa, id-dibattitu pubbliku ma kienx ibbażat fuq proposti ċari imma biss fuq biċċiet żgħar ta’ informazzjoni u ħafna spekulazzjoni. Dan it-tip ta’ dibattitu ma jagħmel il-ġid lil ħadd. L-anqas lill-MEPA.

 

 

Il-MEPA bil-loppju

the pattern

(cartoon ta’ Steve Bonello: http://www.stevebonellocartoons.com/)

Diversi qed jippruvaw iwasslu l-messaġġ li l-amnestija li l-MEPA qed tħejji hi dwar affarijiet żgħar. Irregolaritajiet minuri li dwarhom jgħidulna li għandu jkun biżżejjed jekk tħallas multa.

Ma jistax ikun, qed jgħidulna li jkollna dawn l-irregolaritajiet kollha. Hemm bżonn li nkunu pożittivi!

Biex inkunu pożittivi hemm bżonn nitgħallmu nimxu mar-regoli. Hemm ħafna Maltin li meta bnew imxew mar-regoli. Dawn kienu pożittivi ħafna.

Issa qed jiġi propost li min ma mexiex mar-regoli ikun ippremjat. Tajjeb dan? Għax dan li tfisser l-amnestija.

Il-liġijiet u l-policies tal-ippjanar diġa jipprovdu għal varjazzjonijiet żgħar fil-permessi. Jipprovdu dwar soluzzjonijiet għal min għandu l-bitħa ftit żgħira, inkella għal min għandu xi filata nieqsa jew għal min ma jimxix eżatt mal-permess.  Jiġifieri fejn ikun hemm min jieħu żball żgħir dejjem kien possibli li jirrimedja. Bl-amnestija tal-2012 anke għal żbalji ikbar minn ftit pulzieri ġie provdut rimedju.

Li m’huwiex possibli s’issa hu li min jisfida tgħaddi tiegħu. Għax s’issa l-MEPA, għalkemm mhux dejjem imxiet sewwa, għad m’għalqitx għajnejha.  Avolja kuntant tħares mingħajr ma tara.

Jista’ jkun li hemm min għandu abbużi ikbar fil-bini li s’issa ma setax igawdi dak li għamel. Per eżempju qed jissemmew vilel sħaħ barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp li inbnew kompletament mingħajr permess. Inkella forsi xi każijiet fejn inħareg permess għal stalel taż-żwiemel barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp u minflok inbniet residenza. Jew xi każ ta’ permess għal washrooms li ġie trasformat f’penthouse f’żona fejn mhux permess.

Forsi għalhekk hemm min qed iqis li amnestija hi I-unika soluzzjoni. Amnestija li biha jilluppjaw lil MEPA.

Għad jonqos li nkunu nafu kemm ser japplikaw loppju. B’hekk ikollna idea ta’ kemm ser ikunu ippremjati abbużi!

Local Councils, cleaning the financial mess

localcouncils

 

The National Audit Office, last December, published an unprecedented  report entitled “Report by the Auditor General on the workings of Local Government”. The 294 page document examines the financial statements pertaining to financial year 2013 and lists various shortcomings in the financial administration of local government.

During 2013, thirty seven of the local councils registered a deficit, whilst some councils did not follow the required procurement procedures. Some of these faults have their root cause in the fact that local councillors  are not trained adequately to handle their responsibilities. They require training, both before they contest an election  as well as after the election itself. They need to be made more aware of their responsibilities. Training of our local councillors (and more so mayors) is undoubtedly not an easy task. It is, in fact, quite a challenge.

There were also a number of policy decisions which, over the years, have not made matters any easier. Understandably, the Local Government Auditors do not examine the matter in any depth, as it falls outside their brief.

A case in point is the Public Private Partnership launched through Memo 45/2010 issued by the Department of Local Government on 22 March 2010. This initiative started off on a positive note. Government then decided  to attend to the issue of dilapidated roads, thereby tackling one of the major complaints in all localities.

Various funds were made available to local councils for this purpose. Additionally part of  the statutory allocation received by local councils annually was ring-fenced such that it was only usable for road works. These funds, according to Parliamentary Question 30314, replied to by the then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi on 21 November  2011, amounted to a total of €15 million and were made available to the  47 local councils which had expressed their interest and submitted the required application.

The problem however, was that Government only funded  30% of the expenses directly. The remaining 70 per cent of the required funds had to be disbursed by local councils from their own resources. These included savings made from road maintenance costs, which were justifiably rerouted to fund the resurfacing exercise.

The bottom line however, was that what should have been a central government responsibility in its entirety was shifted onto local councils, with central government only  footing 30 per cent of the bill when it should have forked out the remaining 70 too. Whilst at face value, a 30 per cent subvention may seem substantial, in reality, it was not.  Local councils were desperate to improve the state of the roads in their localities and most of them did not think twice about accepting government’s offer to carry out substantial road works in 2010 and 2011 and spreading the payment of their bills over 8 years, in line, with what was provided for in Memo 45/2010. It is this state of affairs that has led to the financial mess that a number of local councils find themselves in currently.  In fact, the National Audit Office reports that:  “during the 2013 financial year, 37 local councils registered a deficit.”

The point to be made is: is it ethical to place local councils in this position, such that councillors in 47 localities made budgetary commitments of local council finances for a period of 8 years? Councillors elected after 2011 in these 47 localities still had their statutory responsibilities but the financial resources  enabling them to honour their responsibilities were severely depleted. This is  governance at its worst, made worse only by the fact that it was officially sanctioned by the government of the day.

Local councils have very little resources to work with.  The minute budgetary increase voted by Parliament for the current financial year is obviously welcome, but in no way does it compensate for the exponential increase in costs incurred by local councils throughout the past years.

Its fine to insist that local ouncils should ensure that those providing them with services deal properly with their employees. However, to be in a better position to ensure that contractors utilising labour subject to precarious employment conditions are not engaged by local councils it stands to reason that local councils must be able to offer attractive rates of pay.  Otherwise, it will be more of the same procurement exercises, leading to the acceptance of the cheapest bidder.  The cheapest bidder, more often than not, is able to submit the lowest  bid due to its low labour costs.

Local councils have very clear and specific responsibilities. They can only shoulder them if councillors are properly trained and the councils adequately funded.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 15 February 2015