L-ispjuni boloh ta’ Tonio Fenech

spys

 

It-Torċa tal-lum irrappurtat storja dwar numru ta’ uffiċjali pubbliċi mlaħħqa li kienu qed jgħaddu informazzjoni lil Tonio Fenech, ex-Ministru tal-Finanzi. Billi kienu msieħba f’google group dawn kienu jiddiskutu bejniethom issues kurrenti hekk kif jinqalgħu w jgħaddu informazzjoni sensittiva lil Tonio Fenech xi kultant ankè qabel ma jkun jaf biha l-Gvern stess.

Għal Tonio Fenech bla dubju kienet scoop għax kien ikun armat b’informazzjoni biex ikun jista’ jitkellem “in real time” imma għas-servizz pubbliku hi daqqa ta’ ħarta.

Għax is-servizz pubbliku mhux qiegħed hemm biex jivvantaġġa lil xi partit politiku imma biex imexxi u jagħti servizz lill-pajjiż kollu.  Għalhekk ngħidu li l-lealtà tas-servizz pubbliku hi waħda lejn il-Gvern tal-ġurnata li jiddetermina d-direzzjoni. Is-servizz pubbliku imbagħad jimplimenta.

L-artiklu fit-Torċa jidentifika uħud minn dawn l-uffiċjali pubbliċi b’isimhom. Qegħdin fost oħrajn fil-Bank Ċentrali, l-MFSA (Malta Financial Services Authority), u fl-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Istatistika.

Dan hu ħażin, avolja mhux l–ewwel darba li ġara.  Kien hemm indikazzjonijiet fil-passat  li dan ġara. Id-differenza issa hi li qed jingħad li dawn inqabdu “red-handed”, jiġifieri li hemm il-provi. Probabbilment li l-provi huma ta’ natura teknika u jinvolvu traċċi elettroniċi tal-emails mibgħuta, kif fil-fatt ġie ippubblikat fit-Torċa.

Dawn sfortunatament huma l-konsegwenzi tar-rwol tal-politika partiġġjana fis-serviżż pubbliku li timmanifesta ruħha ukoll fil-parti l-kbira tal-ħatriet li saru u jsiru prinċipalment fil-gradi l-għoljin. Mhux kaz ta’ Nazzjonalisti kontra Laburisti jew ta’ Laburisti kontra Nazzjonalisti, iżda hi ferm iktar ikkumplikata minn hekk. L-abbuż bl-impiegi pubbliċi imsejħa “position of trust” hi parti importanti  mill-problema. Il-mod kif ġew ittrattati s-Segretarji Permanenti immedjatament wara l-elezzjoni hi aspett ieħor tal-problema.

Sfortunatament, dawn l-affarijiet ikomplu. L-ispjuni ta’ Tonio Fenech kienu l-boloh li nqabdu. Il-problema l-kbira huma dawk li għandhom aċċess għal informazzjoni sensittiva ħafna jużawha kif jaqblilhom u ma jinqabdu qatt. Kien hemm minnhom qabel Marzu 2013 u jkun hemm oħrajn li jagħmluha issa.

Fis-settur pubbliku ukoll, dak li tiżra’ taħsad.

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Political responsibility

 

Mallia inquiry

Good governance is clearly going to the dogs. It is not just a case of matters that could have been handled better, as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated in the aftermath of the Cafè Premier scandal.

In February 2015 the National Audit Office had underlined notable shortcomings in terms of governance with respect to Joseph Muscat’s government’s failure to involve the Government Property Division in the negotiations to re-acquire Cafè Premier in Valletta.

The purpose of holding inquires, irrespective of their format, is not just to identify those responsible for shortcomings relative to matters under investigation. High on the list of objectives of inquires is the identification and subsequent doing away with administrative practices which are liable to be abused.

The Manwel Mallia inquiry, which was commissioned by the Prime Minister in terms of the Inquires Act, was handled by three former judges and focused on the behaviour of the then Honourable Minister Manwel Mallia. It is pertinent to point out that in their report dated 8 December 2014, the three judges had emphasised that Manwel Mallia had to shoulder ministerial or political responsibility in respect of the behaviour of those persons who he had nominated to a position of trust. Tongue-in-cheek, the panel of judges carrying out the Mallia inquiry had commented that Maltese politicians, when in Opposition, emphasise the need to shoulder political responsibility only to forget all about it when they make it to government.

In fact, in view of the conclusions of that inquiry, former Minister Manwel Mallia, in defiance of the basic rules of good governance, refused to resign from office and was subsequently fired by the Prime Minister – who had no other option at his disposal.

The current Gaffarena scandal may lead to similar considerations. Two politicians are under the spotlight: Joseph Muscat, who, in addition to being Prime Minister is also Minister for Lands, and Michael Falzon, who is the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Lands. Both have to shoulder political responsibility for the operation of the Government Property Division for which they are jointly politically responsible. Twenty seven months into Labour’s mandate it is not justifiable that they shift the blame onto their predecessors. Labour in government has had sufficient time to carry out basic operational changes, if they considered that these were necessary.

Two inquires are under way. One has been requested by the Opposition and is being carried out by the National Audit Office. The other has been requested by the government and is being carried out by the Internal Audit and Investigation Department.

The two inquires will necessarily overlap but, due to differing terms of reference they should be complimenting each other.

There are too many coincidences in this latest Gaffarena scandal and consequently various issues need to be explained. The Government Property Division seems to have preferred Marco Gaffarena, giving him time to purchase a second portion of the Valletta property before expropriating it, when it could have easily expropriated it directly from the then owners! Likewise, it is clear that someone took the decision to pay Marco Gaffarena partly in kind, by allowing him to select amongst government property that land which suited him most. Who took this decision?  The civil service does not normally take such decisions. This particular decision, in my view, has political fingerprints.

The values attributed to both the expropriated property and to the government properties used to facilitate payment have raised eyebrows. Detailed explanation is required to establish whether there is some computational error or whether there is some other explanation.

Throughout the past week, the press has pointed at a particular member of the private secretariat of Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon who, too often, was observed accompanying Marco Gaffarena at the Government Property Division. This person, appointed in a position of trust by the Honourable Michael Falzon, did not reply to questions from the press intended to clarify whether – and to what extent – he opened doors for Gaffarena. In particular, the queries sought to clarify whether he facilitated the pick and choose land deal between the Government Property Division and Marco Gaffarena.

The conclusions of the two investigations should undoubtedly shed light on the decisions taken, as well as on those who facilitated them. The fact that this is the second case concerning the Government Property Division being investigated by the National Audit Office in the space of a few months should ring the alarm bells because, essentially, it signifies that no lessons were learnt from the Cafè Premier debacle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 14 June 2015

Ħatriet politiċi fis-settur pubbliku (Positions of trust)

Ombudsplan 2015

Fl-Ombudsplan għall-2015 l-Ombudsman jirrimarka li l-ħatriet diretti fis-settur pubbliku [dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala ħatriet politiċi] jistgħu jwasslu għal-nuqqas ta’ trasparenza.

Kull persuna impjegata fis-servizz pubbliku għandha tkun persuna ta’ fiduċja. L-Ombudsman fil-fatt jgħid li s-servizz pubbliku għandu jkun apolitiku u dan għax għandu jkun lejali lejn kull amminjistrazzjoni. Is-servizz pubbliku għandu jkun il-ħolqa bejn l-amministrazzjonijiet differenti u l-istrument li permezz tiegħu l-politika tal-Gvern tal-ġurnata tkun imwettqa, mhux biss b’lejalta’ lejn il-vot popolari imma fuq kollox b’ġustizzja u ekwita. Għax l-amministrazzjoni pubblika, ġdida jew qadima, hi hemm għal kulħadd. Mhiex hemm biss għal dawk li ivvutaw għaliha.

Minn mudell ta’ servizz pubbliku fuq stil Anglu-Sassonu fejn għandek servizz pubbliku permanenti mexjin lejn mudell Amerikan fejn numru kbir ta’ persuni jinbidlu mal-bidla fil-Gvern. Meta dan ma jsirx b’regoli ċari u trasparenti joħloq inġustizzji u nuqqas ta’ trasparenza.

Il-każ tal-bdil tas-Segretarji Permanenti kważi kollha mal-bidla fil-Gvern hu wieħed mill-eżempji li lkoll nafu bih. Ma ġratx biss taħt l-amministrazzjoni ta’ Joseph Muscat. Anke fi żmien Lawrence Gonzi kellna każijiet fejn il-Gvern ried jaħtar persuni li ried hu f’posizzjonijiet li qieshom bħala li huma ta’ fiduċja. Niftakru l-ħatra ta’ Direttur għall-Ħarsien tal-Ambjent u ta’ Chief Executive tal-MEPA li qabel l-2013 kienu nħatru direttament mill-MEPA bl-approvazzjoni tal-Ministru għall-Ambjent u dan mingħajr sejħa għal applikazzjonijiet.  Il-Gvern ta’ dakinnhar ma kienx qabel  mar-rapporti tal-Perit Joe Falzon (Uffiċjal tal-Verifika tal-MEPA) li kien qal b’mod ċar li dawn it-tip ta’ ħatriet ma kienux korretti.

L-Ombudsman jemfasizza li l-ħatriet f’ position of trust (ħatriet politiċi) għandhom ikunu minimi. Wieħed jifhem li kemm is-Segretarjati Privati fil-Ministeri kif ukoll uħud mill-persuni meħtieġa biex ifasslu policies għandhom ikunu persuni ta’ fiduċja. In-numru tagħhom iżda għandu jkun ċar, limitat u regolat b’mod li kulħadd ikun jaf fejn hu.

Ma dan jiena nżid nirreferi għall-ħatriet ta’ Bordijiet u Awtoritajiet. Dawn il-ħatriet għadhom jibdew isiru wara skrutinju pubbliku [public hearing] minn Kumitat Parlamentari. Dan hu punt li temfasizza Alternattva Demorkatika fil-Manifest Elettorali għall-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013. Huwa neċessarju li jkun assigurat li jkun hemm iżjed persuni kompetenti li jinħatru fil-Bordijiet u l-Awtoritajiet. Skrutinju pubbliku tal-persuni nominati jista’ jkun mod kif dan ikun assigurat.

 

Il-ħatriet politiċi fl-amministrazzjoni pubblika ma jistgħux ikunu eliminati. Imma nistgħu bħala pajjiż nassiguraw li l-mertu jkollu rwol ferm iktar importanti milli għandu sal-lum fil-ħatriet pubbliċi.