The financing of Fawlty Towers

Townsquare.Fawlty Tower

The saga of the Mrieħel and the Townsquare towers is now entering a new phase, with the planning appeal stopwatch due to start ticking shortly –  most probably towards the end of the month. It is known that, so far, Sliema Local Council and a number of environmental NGOs will be appealing against the 4 August decision of the Planning Authority to approve the “Fawlty Towers” at Mrieħel and Townsquare Sliema .

Financing of the projects is next. The banks cannot increase their already substantial exposure to loans that are dependent on building speculation. Consequently, the developers will inevitably have to seek the involvement of private citizens and, possibly, institutional investors. Most probably, the process for financing the projects has already commenced; it will involve the issuing of bonds to the public and will normally be sponsored by a bank and a stock-broking agency.

The bank or banks and stockbrokers sponsoring the bond issue will have to ensure that the bonds are subject to an “appropriateness and suitability testing” subject to such direction as the Malta Financial Services Authority  may consider necessary and suitable. Also, in the light of past local unpleasant experiences, the Authority will undoubtedly be guided by the need to ensure  that prospective investors fully understand the inherent risks of the proposed investments.  It will also ensure that detailed information is published in the form of a suitable prospectus in which the small print is both legible and understandable.

Those who finance the high-rise projects should shoulder responsibility for their impact together with the Planning Authority and the developers. They will potentially make it happen, so they should carry the can. It is important to get this message through: those who will invest in the Gasan and Tumas bonds intended to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  should receive more than a monetary return on their investment. The moment they sign up they will also assume co-responsibility – with the developers, the Planning Authority, the bank or banks and the sponsoring stockbrokers – for this projected development .

Word is going around on the need to boycott the services and products placed on the market by the Gasan and Tumas Groups. Journalist Jürgen Balzan, writing in Malta Today described these services and products as being wide-ranging (hotels, car-dealerships, gaming, finance and property) which easily impact on the daily life of a substantial number of Maltese citizens. However, such a boycott’s only link with  the “Fawlty  Towers”  would be through the owners.  It would be preferable for a boycott to have a direct link with the offensive action.  In this context, the forthcoming bond issue to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  presents itself as a suitable opportunity.

A boycott is a non-violent instrument of protest that is perfectly legitimate in a democratic society. The boycotting of the forthcoming bond issue would send a clear message that people will not be complicit in further ruining the  urban fabric of Sliema and ensure that development at Imrieħel is such that the historic landscape is fully respected.

A social impact assessment, if properly carried out, would have revealed the apprehensions of the residents in particular the residents on the Tignè peninsula. But, unfortunately, as stated by Sliema Green Local Councillor Michael Briguglio, the existing policy-making process tends to consider such studies as an irritant rather than as a tool for holistic management and community participation.

We have had some recent converts on the desirability of social impact assessments, such as Professor Alex Torpiano, Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta. Prof. Torpiano, in an opinion piece published by the Malta Independent this week, stressed that spatial planning in Malta needs a social-economic dimension. Unfortunately, I do not recollect the professor himself practising these beliefs as the leading architect in the MIDI and Cambridge projects on the Tignè peninsula,  a stone’s throw from Townsquare!

Investing in this bond issue is not another private decision: it will have an enormous impact on the community.

Responsibility for this ever-increasing environmental mess has to be shouldered by quite a few persons in Malta. Even the banks have a very basic responsibility – and not one to be shouldered just by the Directors: the shareholders should also take an interest before decisions are taken and not post-factum.

I understand that the Directors of APS Bank have already taken note of the recent  statements regarding the environment by  Archbishop Charles Scicluna. As such, it stands to reason that APS will (I hope) not be in any way associated with the financing process for the “Fawlty  Towers”.  However, there is no news as yet from the other banks, primarily from the major ones – ie Bank of Valletta and HSBC.

This is a defining moment in environmental action in Malta. It is time for those that matter to stand up to be counted – and the sooner the better.

published by the Malta Independent on Sunday – 21 August 2016

Through the revolving door: politicians for sale at a discount

Barroso.GoldmanSachs

 

US Investment Bank Goldman Sachs announced last week that it had “hired” former EU Commission Chairman Josè Manuel Barroso as an advisor and non-executive Chairman of the Goldman Sachs International arm.

The New York Times quoting co-CEOs of Goldman Sachs International Michael Sherwood and Richard J. Gnoddle explained the relevance of the appointment as being “Josè Manuel’s immense insights and experience including a deep understanding of Europe”. Earlier this week, the EU Observer  further commented that Goldman Sachs hired Barroso “as it struggles with the fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the EU”.

Based in London but offering services across Europe, Goldman Sachs may be faced with limited or no access to the EU’s single market as a result of Brexit. Hence the need to hire Barroso as an advisor and lobbyist as the United Kingdom and the European Union prepare for the negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union which can be triggered any time in the forthcoming weeks through a declaration in terms of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Barroso’s engagement with Goldman Sachs is one which will be much debated as, like nine other members of the Commission which he led between 2009 and 2014, he has been catapulted into the corporate boardroom through the revolving door. His value to Goldman Sachs is his knowledge of the privileged information to which he had access during his 10-year tenure as President of the EU Commission and, the influence which he may still have on a number of key EU officials.  This gives great value to his advisory/lobbying role with Goldman Sachs.

European Union regulations on the possible activities of its former Commission members draw a cut-off line after an 18-month cooling-off period at the end of their tenure when, as stated by an EU Commission spokesperson, “there is a reasonable assumption that the access to privileged information or possible influence are no longer an issue”.   This is contested by the different political groupings in the EU Parliament who maintain that the cooling-off period for EU Commissioners taking up sensitive jobs after ceasing their duties as Commissioners should be extended from 18 months to five years as the present length of time is insufficient to ensure that the EU is really the servant of ordinary people and not of multinational corporations or international financial institutions.

This debate at a European Union level contrasts to the provisions of the Standards in Public Life Bill currently being debated by the Maltese Parliament which Bill, so far, does not make any provision on the regulation of lobbying in Malta in any form or format.

It is not unheard of in Malta for politicians to move through the revolving door from the Cabinet to the private sector boardroom or its anteroom, and back again. Three such cases of former Cabinet Ministers in Malta in the recent past come to mind : John Dalli and his involvement with the Corinthia Group and later the Marsovin Group, Karmenu Vella who similarly was heavily involved first with the Corinthia Group and subsequently with the Orange Travel Group as well as with Betfair and finally Tonio Fenech’s recent involvement in the financial industry.

Being unregulated, lobbying through the revolving door is not illegal but it can still be unethical and unacceptable in a modern democratic society as it can result in undue influence of corporations over the regulatory authorities.

Piloting the debate on the Standards in Public Life Bill on Monday 11 July, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech recognised the deficiencies of the Bill and declared that a register of lobbyists in Malta was a necessity. While this is a welcome statement and a significant first step forward, it is certainly not enough, as a proper regulation of lobbying in Malta is long overdue. This involves much more than registration of lobbyists or even the regulation of revolving door recruitment in both the private and the public sector.

If done properly, lobbying is perfectly legitimate. It is perfectly reasonable for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. In fact it is done continuously and involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration. It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf or else acting on behalf of third parties, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions.

However, for lobbying to be acceptable in a democratic society, it must be done transparently. In particular, through regulation it must be ensured  that lobbying should not be transformed into a  process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives or advisors of corporations to take their place. Lobbying activities must be properly documented and the resulting documentation must be publicly accessible.

Hopefully, Parliament will take note and act.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 July 2016

Joseph Muscat : tad-daħq jew tal-biki ?

smilie_gr_201

 

F’Malta(s’issa)  hawn kunsens bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista dwar il-qasam tas-settur finanzjarju. Dan il-kunsens jinkludi l-possibilità tat-twaqqif ta’ nominee companies li jippermettu l-ħabi tal-ismijiet tal-persuni involuti f’dawn il-kumpaniji.

Alternattiva Demokratika dejjem kienet kritika ta’ dan. In partikolari ipproponejna li s-servizzi fiduċjarji li permezz tagħhom l-identità tas-sidien reali ta’ uħud mill-kumpaniji hi moħbija wara l-isem ta’ xi avukat jew accountant jeħtieġ li jispiċċaw.

Jekk dan ma jsirx, inutli nitkellmu fuq it-trasparenza u fuq il-ġlieda kontra l-korruzzjoni. Il-korruzzjoni hi mibnija fuq in-nuqqas ta’ trasparenza, fuq il-ħabi, w s-servizzi fiduċjarji ma jagħtu l-ebda garanzija biex dan ikun evitat.

F’dan il-kuntest uħud mid-dikjarazzjonijiet tal-Prim Ministru Malti Joseph Muscat fil-konferenza tal-Commonwealth f’Londra ma nafx jekk humiex tad-daħq jew tal-biki.

Fir-Raħal Ġdid : il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti

Marsa Shipbuilding site

Tħabbar dak li ilu ftit magħruf ( 1 u 2). Ċjoe li s-sit tal-Marsa Shipbuilding ser ikun żviluppat f’ċentru għas-servizzi lill-oil rigs li qed jirreferu għalih bħala l-Mediterranean Maritime Hub.

Qed jingħad li dan ser ifisser investiment ta’ €55 miljun u li ser joħloq 150 impieg ta’ kwalità fil-qasam tal-industrija taż-żejt u tal-gass.

Ħadd ma hu ser jargumenta kontra l-ħolqien tal-ġid, imma tajjeb li anke f’dan l-istadju nemfasizza li s-sit magħżul hu viċin ħafna ta’ żona residenzjali – il-parti t’isfel tar-Raħal Ġdid. L-impatt fuq ir-residenti għandu jkun indirizzat minn issa meta d-dettalji tal-proġett għadhom fl-istadju ta’ ippjanar.

Dan ser jinkludi  prinċipalment storbju u tniġġiż tal-arja imma ukoll dwar kif ser ikun immaniġjat l-iskart tossiku li bla dubju ser joriġina mix-xogħolijiet ippjanati.

Għax il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti tar-Raħal Ġdid hi importanti daqs il-ħolqien tal-impiegi. Għandna diġa esperjenza qarsa fl-Isla u Birżebbuġa. Nittama li minn din l-esperjenza tgħallimna bħala pajjiż biex l-affarijiet isiru aħjar.

From toxic waste to iGaming

housecardsfall

 

It is a well known fact that the underworld on the Italian peninsula controls vast stretches of the Italian economy.

Some readers would remember the underworld’s waste-management activity that ended in the sinking of some 42 ships laden with toxic and/or hazardous waste throughout the Mediterranean. This was well known to environmentalists but confirmed during the Palermo maxi-processo, when Mafia turncoat Francesco Fonti gave evidence identifying the location of one such sunken ship, the Kunsky, loaded with 120 barrels of toxic waste, just off the Calabrian coast.

This network of organised environmental crime is so vast that, at one time, it also dumped toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. The warlords in the Somalia civil war were partly financed by the Italian underworld, which supplied them with arms in return for their consent to the dumping of the toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. Rai Tre’s investigative journalist Ilaria Alpi and her cameraman Miran Hrovatin were murdered in Mogadishu after having successfully tracked down the toxic shipments.

In early 2008 it was identified that buffalo mozzarella originating from some 83 dairy farms in an area near Naples was tainted with dioxin. The buffalo were grazing in an area where the Mafia was controlling the dumping of toxic waste  containing dioxin. When ingested through food dioxin can cause birth defects and organ failure in mammals. Large quantities of buffalo mozzarella tainted with dioxin were withdrawn from the market.

Carmine Schiavone, another Mafia turncoat, spilled the beans on more dumping of toxic and hazardous waste by the Mafia in the Naples area, in particular in the area around Casale di Principe. It has been reported that the incidence of cancer in these areas has skyrocketed as a result of the dumping contaminating the water table.

It is estimated that the underworld has garnered some €20 billion a year in the last few years from its illicit dealings in waste. Add to this the billions from its drug dealings, estimated at another €20 billion annually and you can clearly understand the Mafia’s need to launder huge sums of money.

Two specific areas seem to have been selected for this purpose. One such area was an investment in wind-farms in Sicily. Wheeling and dealing in the Sicilian wind farms was a certain Gaetano Buglisi who, for a time, made use of Malta’s fiduciary services by hiding behind their corporate veil. Last February the Italian Courts sentenced him to three years in jail as well as a substantial fine on finding him guilty of tax evasion.

It is within this context that one should try to understand the iGaming saga in Malta.

In the last few days the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has suspended the operating licences of a number of iGaming operators. Until the time of writing, six operators have been suspended, namely : Uniq Group Limited (Betuniq), Betsolution4U Limited, Alibaba Casino Limited, Soft Casino Limited,   Fenplay Limited and Soft Bet Limited . The MGA did not act on its own initiative but at the request of Italian law enforcement agencies.

In a press release, the MGA stated these licences had been suspended “further to investigations and arrests carried out by the Italian law enforcement authorities in collaboration with the Maltese police. The MGA is providing full support to the relevant authorities so that Malta’s reputation as a gaming jurisdiction of excellence is kept free from crime and money laundering. The MGA is also alerting counterpart regulators in other EU jurisdictions about this case.”

In a further press release issued on 25 July it was stated  “At the time of application (according to the MGA’s records), in line with standard procedures, all directors, shareholders, senior managers and ultimate beneficiary owners of these companies have been screened through MGA’s systems and protocols, using probity tools and national and international contacts and organisations. This forms part of the probity checks conducted at pre-licensing stage and before the actual business model of the gaming operation in question is screened and other control systems are checked and approved. The licensing process also includes independent audits, such as system and compliance audits which are carried out by approved external auditors.”

It seems that the due diligence carried out in Malta is no match for the underworld. It is possibly a case of amateurs trying to keep professionals in check.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna stated that a review of due diligence procedures will be undertaken and changes will be put in place if  required. As a start, he should consider embedding complete transparency in iGaming. Hiding the identity of iGaming operators should be discontinued by emending legislation and discontinuing fiduciary services. This corporate veil is unfortunately being used as a tool by the underworld. As a nation we could do better if we make an effort to keep organised crime as far away from Malta’s economic activities as possible. It is pertinent to ask: how many iGaming jobs in Malta depend on Mafia linked operators.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 2 August 2015

On this blog on the same subject one can view the following :

2009 The eco-threat of the Italian Mafia.

2013 On Malta’s Northern doorstep: the Mafia contaminates Southern Italy with millions of tonnes of toxic and nuclear waste.

2013 Ecocide in the Mediterranean. The known consequences so far.

2013 Schiavone’s secrets on eco-mafia operations: when will Malta’s government speak up.

Unhappy meal : zero-hours contracts and tax avoidance

for reader offer. McDonald's logo.

 

In 2009 McDonald’s restructured its business in Europe with the effect of extracting billions in royalties from its European operations.

This restructuring involved a number of decisions .

A Luxembourg based intellectual property holding company (McD Europe Franchising Sàrl) was set up immediately after a tax policy change (in Luxembourg) which allowed companies to benefit from significant reductions of their tax rate on income earned from intellectual property. Subsequently billions in royalties from McDonald’s European operations were routed to Luxembourg in the coffers of McD Europe Franchising Sàrl.

Over the five years 2009-2013 it is estimated that McDonald’s avoided the payment of €1 billion in taxes. Consequently the European states hosting 7,850 outlets which in 2013 had an estimated turnver of €20.3 billion have lost €1 billion in tax revenue.

McDonald’s the tax avoider tries to depict itself as a vital provider of jobs, particularly for youth. Most of McDonald’s employees experience precarious, low-wage work with little prospect for steady employment or advancement. It is known for instance that in the UK, the vast majority of McDonald’s 97,000 employees are on zero-hours contracts : employment contracts with neither guaranteed hours nor work schedule stability.

A very unhappy meal. Precarious employment for the employees and tax avoidance galore for the corporation!

 

Information extracted from : Unhappy Meal: €1 billion in tax avoidance on the Menu at McDonald’s  (report published by  Coalition of European and American Trade unions and War on Want, the UK based anti-poverty campaign group, 24th Feburary 2015)

Il-Cafè Premier u l-Lottu

Cafè Premier 2

Qed jgħidulna li l-Gvern kien trasparenti ħafna fil-każ tal-Cafè Premier. Il-Gvern, qalilna l-Prim Ministru, għadda lill-Awditur Ġenerali l-informazzjoni kollha, bla ma ħalla xejn barra.

Ir-rapport tal-Uffċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika jgħid li Mario Camilleri ta’ Cities Entertainment Limited kien diġa offra l-Cafè Premier lill-Gvern preċedenti, li ma kienx interessat. Jgħidilna ukoll li wara l-elezzjoni ġenerali ta’ Marzu 2013 kien talab laqgħa mal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat. Din il-laqgħa saret nhar is-17 t’April 2013 meta Mario Camilleri ġedded l-offerta lill-Gvern biex jieħu lura l- Cafè Premier. Sussegwentement bdew in-negozjati.

Meta l-Gvern preċedenti informa lil Mario Camilleri li ma kienx interessat illi jakkwista l-Cafè Premier ikun interessanti ħafna x’għamel Camilleri meta kien infurmat bil-posizzjoni tal-Gvern. Ikun interessanti ħafna jekk Camilleri ippruvax jiskopri x’kien jaħseb il-Partit Laburista fl-Opposizzjoni dwar dan.

S’issa aħna infurmati li Camilleri iltaqa’ darbtejn ma Joseph Muscat meta kien għadu Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Miegħu tkellem dwar is-shareholding li Camilleri kellu fil-kumpanija li għandha l-liċenzja tal-Lottu f’pajjiżna. It-Times online il-bieraħ , fil-fatt qaltilna hekk : “Admitting that he had met Mario Camilleri – one of the owners of Cafè Premier twice before the election, he said that the financial position of the establishment was never mentioned. Instead he said that Mr Camilleri’s shareholding in lotto was discussed.”

Mario Camilleri kien inkwetat u skond Joseph Muscat iddiskuta miegħu x’kien jaħseb il-Partit Laburista dwar it-tiġdid tal-liċenzja tal-Lottu.

Mill-informazzjoni li ngħatajna s’issa, minkejja li l-Gvern preċedenti ma kienx interessat illi jixtri lura l-Cafè Premier, Mario Camilleri ma jidhirx li kien inkwetat. Għaliex fuq l-agenda bejn Muscat u Camilleri filwaqt li kien hemm il-Lottu, ma kienx hemm il-Cafè Premier.

Ma nafx jien, imma daqsxejn diffiċli biex titwemmen din.  Naħseb li hemm hemm ħafna iktar li għadna ma nafux!

Il-kobba tidher li hi imħabbla sewwa!

Il-Cafè Premier: min jgħaġġel u min ikaxkar saqajh

NAO.Premier

 

Meta tifli sewwa r-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika dwar il-Cafè Premier joħorġu ċari numru ta’ punti.

Joseph Muscat, issa qed jaċċetta li għaġġel. “Muscat admits Government rushed on €4.2 million Cafè Premier deal” tgħidilna l-Malta Today online tal-bieraħ il-Ħadd 1 ta’ Marzu. Il-mistoqsija li teħtieġ tweġiba hi għaliex għaġġel? Min jew x’kellu jiġri warajh?

Huwa minħabba li ried jgħaġġel illi żamm kontroll fuq it-taħditiet taħt l-uffiċċju tiegħu? Għaliex fl-iktar żmien kruċjali tat-taħditiet ma involviex lid-Dipartiment li jieħu ħsieb l-amministrazzjoni tal-propjetà tal-Gvern? Dan il-fatt waħdu huwa sinifikanti u jagħti indikazzjoni li d-deċiżjoni, tal-inqas fil-prinċipju, kienet ilha lesta ferm qabel il-bidu t’April 2013 meta bdew id-diskussjonijiet madwar 4 ġimgħat wara li nbidel il-Gvern.

Ir-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika jgħidilna li qabel ma bdew id-diskussjonijiet ma’ Joseph Muscat, Mario Camilleri ta’ Cities Entertainment Limited kien qed jiddiskuti ma’ negozjant ieħor li ukoll kien offrielu €4.2 miljuni. Imma ma ftehmux għax Mario Camilleri dehrlu li Cities Entertainment Limited kien ħaqqha iktar. Fil-fatt huwa kien talab €5.37 miljuni. Mit-Times tas-Sibt sirna nafu illi l-offerta kienet saret mingħand Anġlu Xuereb li ma kienx lest li joffri iktar minn €4.2 miljuni .

Jekk il-problema setgħet issolviet bl-involviment tas-settur privat, il-mistoqsija li toħroġ waħedha hi għaliex intużaw €4.2 miljuni mit-taxxi? Din it-tweġiba ma jista’ jagħtiha ħadd ħlief il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat.

Jista’ jkun hemm min jgħid li dan sar biex titneħħa kċina minn taħt il-Biblioteka u b’hekk jitneħħa sors ta’ periklu kbir taħt teżor nazzjonali. Min jgħid hekk forsi ma jafx li l-kuntratt oriġinali ma Cities Entertainment Limited iffirmat fl-1998 kien jipprojibixxi li jintużaw ċilindri tal-gass fuq is-sit. Forsi l-anqas ma jaf li kċina fis-sit li taħdem bl-elettriku hi ta’ periklu ferm inqas mid-diversi ħwienet tal-ħwejjeġ li hemm taħt il-Biblioteka u li b’short circuit fis-sistema tal-elettriku huma ukoll sors kontinwu ta’ periklu daqs jekk mhux iżjed minn kċina li taħdem bl-elettriku.  Għax b’short circuit fis-sistema tal-elettriku il-ħwejjeġ jaqbdu ferm iktar malajr mill-affarijiet li normalment insibu fi kċina! U in-nar li jirriżulta jinfirex iktar malajr.

It-Taqsima tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern, kif inhu ddokumentat fir-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika, damet ftit ittella’ u tniżżel sakemm fl-aħħar iddeċidiet li tibda proċeduri fil-Qorti biex ikun xolt il-kuntratt. Fl-2004 kien diġa beda jberraq. Fl-4 t’April 2006 ġiet ippreżentata ittra uffiċjali biex titħallas il-kera li kienet b’lura. Wara ħafna tiġbid u xi pagamenti  s-sitwazzjoni irranġat għal ftit, sakemm nhar il-5 ta’ Mejju 2009 reġgħet ġiet ippreżentata ittra uffiċjali oħra dwar il-kera li kienet għad ma tħallsitx. Wara dan baqgħu daqqa jifthemu u wara ftit jerġgħu jaqgħu lura fil-ħlas. Sakemm fl-2012 ittieħdu passi legali mill-Gvern.

Kien ikun ħafna iktar għaqli kieku għaxar snin ilu ittieħdu l-passi biex ikun xolt il-kuntratt. Kieku sal-lum bla dubju l-Cafè Premier ilu li ġie f’idejn il-Gvern mingħajr ma tħallas ċenteżmu wieħed mit-taxxi tagħna.

Għalhekk hi ġustifikata l-konklużjoni tal-Awditur Ġenerali li ma ġewx esplorati biżżejjed possibilitajiet oħra li setgħu solvew il-problema.

Bla dubju għal dan kollu għandu responsabbilta’ kbira Joseph Muscat li kif ammetta illum, għaġġel. Imma għandu responsabbiltà ukoll Jason Azzopardi li sad-9 ta’ Marzu 2013 bħala Ministru kellu responsabbilta politika għat-Taqsima tal-Propjeta tal-Gvern li kaxkret saqajha biex tieħu l-passi li kienu neċessarji.

Wieħed għaġġel u l-ieħor ikaxkar saqajh.

Lenti fuq Karmenu Vella: kif jarawh (uħud) fl-Ewropa

Revolving-Door11-300x229

Hemm diversi mill-Kummissarji nominati li mhux ser jieħdu ġost fil-gimgħat li ġejjin. Jidher li ta’ l-inqas hemm ħamsa : l-Ispanjol (Miguel Arias Cañeta), l-Ungeriż (Tibor Navracsics), l-Ingliż (Jonathan Hill), il-Malti (Karmenu Vella) w is-Slovena (Alenka Bratuŝek) li jidher car li dwarhom qed jitlestew il-kanuni fil-Parlament Ewropew u l-kumitati tiegħu.

Illum jiena ser nillimita ruħi għal xi ftit minn dak li qed jingħad fuq Karmenu Vella.

Fil-każ tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja li jinvolvi l-ex Kummissarju John Dalli, l-Unjoni Ewropeja instamtet. Huwa każ li għadu għaddej, u irrispettivament minn kif ser jispiċċa, għamel ħsara kbira lil kull min kien involut fih.

L-issue hi  l-aċċess mhux trasparenti tal-Kummissarji għas-setturi tan-negozju u l-industrija. Din hi issue taħraq ħafna, u ilha hemm minn ħafna qabel ma faqqa’ l-każ ta’ John Dalli. L-opinjoni pubblika fl-Unjoni Ewropeja tħares b’mod suspettuż lejn kuntatti bil-moħbi u mill-viċin bejn il-politiċi u d-dinja tal-business.

Il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja taffronta din is-sitwazzjoni b’żewġ miżuri: bi trasparenza dwar il-kuntatti u b’dik li tissejjaħ revolving door policy.

It-traparenza tintlaħaq billi tingħata pubbliċita kemm lill-fatt li jkunu saru l-laqgħat kif ukoll dwar x’ikun intqal fil-laqgħat infushom.

Il-politika ta’ dan l-imbierek bieb li jdur hi dwar uffiċjali għolja tal-Kummissjoni (Kummissarji u uffiċjali imlaħħqin) li meta jintemm il-perjodu tal-ħatra tagħhom imorru jaħdmu mas-settur privat li qabel kienu jirregolaw (meta kienu Kummissarji jew uffiċjali tal-Kummissjoni). Għal numru ta’ snin wara li Kummissarju (jew uffiċjal) jispiċċa mill-ħatra huwa jeħtieġlu jikseb permess qabel ma jibda impieg ġdid. Dan biex il-Kummissjoni tipprova tnaqqas l-impatt f’termini ta’ lobbying minn ex-uffiċjali tagħha stess.

Il-Corporate Europe Observatory hi NGO li għandha l-funzjoni ta’ kelb tal-għassa dwar il-lobbying fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Tlett ijiem ilu ippubblikat rapport dwar Karmenu Vella. Ir-rapport hu intitolat : Don’t bet on the Commissioner: the case of Karmenu Vella of Malta.

Fil-bidu nett tiegħu dan ir-rapport jgħid hekk dwar Karmenu Vella;

“He has been a member of the Maltese Parliament since 1976, but that hasn’t prevented him from also holding a variety of external business roles at the same time including within the gambling industry. CEO now argues that these recent outside interests make him unsuitable to be a Commissioner.”

Għal dawk li bejnhom u bejn ruħhom qed jgħidu, “imma dan x’għandu x’jaqsam?” ir-rapport jispjega l-ħajja professjonali ta’ Karmenu Vella tul is-snin imma jżid jikkummenta hekk:

“ ……it is his recent private sector roles which will raise eyebrows most as, between 2007 and 2013, Vella had an extensive relationship with the Betfair group , acting as “non-executive director on the Betfair Maltese Board” to Betfair Holding (Malta) Limited and Betfair Poker Holdings Limited. He also joined Betfair International Plc on 27 January 2012. Betfair is apparently the world largest internet betting exchange and while it started life as a UK business, its first overseas licence was granted in Malta.”

Ir-rapport ikompli:

“For several years, Vella was also chairman of the Orange Travel Group  which is a merger of Maltese travel firms Mondial and SMS Travel. OTG encompasses a number of subsidiaries and associate outbound travel companies, is present in eight countries, and specialises in cruise trips and outbound travel to Malta and elsewhere.”

Ir-rapport tal-Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) wara li jispjega l-importanza għall-ekonomija Maltija tal-industriji tal-imħatri u tat-turiżmu jagħmel l-osservazzjoni segwenti:

“ In CEO’s view, it is pretty shocking that an MP was able to maintain such outside interests whilst apparently not breaking any rules; even more shocking when this MP was then appointed as Minister for Tourism.”

Wara li jirriproduċi l-kummenti ta’ Karmenu Vella illi meta kien Ministru ma kellu l-ebda konflitt ta’ interess minħabba li l-kumpaniji li fil-passat kellu assoċjazzjoni magħhom ma kellhom l-ebda xogħol mal-Gvern  l-Corporate Europe Observatory tagħlaq ir-rapport tagħha dwar Karmenu Vella bil-kumment segwenti:

“In CEO’s view, it is inappropriate to nominate as a European commissioner a serving politician who has had such recent links to big business. As a very minimum we hope that MEPs who will shortly grill him on his appointment will seek the following commitments from Vella: a commitment to have no professional or private contacts with any of the companies with which he has been involved and / or their lobby representatives, and a promise to refuse all professional and private contacts with the gambling and tourism industries.”

Hu ċar li hemm il-biża’. Il-biża’ hi dwar kuntatti bil-moħbi (lobbying mhux trasparenti). Wara l-każ ta’ John Dalli, hu inevitabbli li Karmenu Vella jitqiegħed taħt il-lenti.  L-ispjegazzjonijiet li jrid jagħti huma bosta.

Hu ċar, għal min irid jifhem, li hemm baħar jaqsam bejn kif inħarsu lejn is-serjeta’ fil-ħajja pubblika aħna l-Maltin u kif iħarsu lejha fl-Ewropa. Il-Corporate Europe Observatory qed jgħid b’mod ċar li dak li f’Malta ma nagħtux kaz tieghu, għalihom hu ta’ importanza fundamentali.  Mhux ser ikun faċli għal Karmenu Vella, anke bir-rieda tajba kollha possibli, li jikkonvinċi, għax il-każ ta’ John Dalli ħoloq pregudizzju kbir fil-konfront ta’ Malta u tal-Maltin li diffiċli ħafna biex jingħeleb.

 

ara wkoll fuq dan il-blog

10 ta’ Settembru 2014 : Ir-responsabbiltajiet ta’ Karmenu Vella fil-Kummissjoni Juncker .

11 ta’ Settembru 2014 : Jean Claude Juncker hu ġurdien xiħ.

12 ta’ Settembru 2014: Kif jista’ Karmenu Vella jitfi s-switch?

Sqaq San Filep

 

Wara żmien twil bi ftit li xejn informazzjoni dwar l-isptar ta’ San Filep, matul din il-ġimgħa kellna indiġistjoni.  L-informazzjoni iżda ħarġet bit-tabuxù għax il-Gvern jagħtiha biċċa biċċa. Kif u meta jaqbillu. Qatt biex jinforma.

Is-serjeta’ kienet titlob mod ieħor. Imma s-serjeta’ m’hiex kwalita’ tal-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi.

Kif anke deher waqt id-dibattitu ta’ nhar it-Tnejn li għadda fil-Parlament hemm ħafna affarijiet li m’humiex ċari u għaldaqstant huwa meħtieġ analiżi twila u dettaljata tal-konsiderazzjonijiet kollha li wasslu għall-ftehim bejn il-Gvern u l-kumpanija ta’ Frank Portelli l-Good Shepherd Group Limited, is-sid tal-isptar.

L-ewwel ħsieb imur fuq is-sit innifsu. Għaliex l-Isptar San Filep?

It-tweġiba m’hiex waħda sempliċi. Id-diskussjonijiet kienu ilhom sejrin minn ftit wara l-elezzjoni tal-2008. Ħadd ma qal xejn għal żmien twil. Dak li kien qed jiġri rriżulta minn sentenza mogħtija mit-Tribunal għat-Talbiet Żgħar nhar l-4 t’Ottubru 2012 fil-każ bejn Icon Studios Ltd u Good Shepherd Group Limited. Fil-paragrafu 7 tal-konsiderazzjonijiet tat-Tribunal jingħad li Dr Frank Portelli nhar l-1 ta’ Marzu 2010 semma n-negozjati li huwa kellu mal-Gvern u li kienu ilhom għaddejjin għal 18-il xahar. Il-każ quddiem it-Tribunal kien dwar ħlas konness mad-disinn ta’ website tal-Isptar San Filep mill-kumpanija ta’ Dr Ġeġe Gatt, iben Austin Gatt.

Issa 18-il xahar qabel l-1 ta’ Marzu 2010 jfisser Settembru 2008!  Dan ifisser li n-negozjati ilhom sejrin 4 snin. Bdew ftit wara l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2008.

In-negozjaturi ghan-nom tal-Gvern kellhom jikkunsidraw jekk il-pjanijiet tal-Gvern għal sptar ta’ Riabilitazzjoni ta’ madwar 280 sodda setgħux jitwettqu f’dan is-sit ta’ 75 kamra b’110 sodda. Il-ħtieġa li l-kapaċita tal-Isptar tiżdied għal iktar minn darbtejn u nofs tista’ tikkunsidraha billi l-ewwel tħares lejn il-potenzjal tas-sit u wara tara mal-MEPA jekk din il-possibilita tistax titwettaq.

Meta tkellem fil-Parlament il-Ministru Tonio Fenech ma ta’ l-ebda assigurazzjoni dwar jekk il-MEPA tistax toħroġ permess ta’ din ix-xorta. Għamel sewwa, għax jiena naħseb li hu diffiċli ħafna għall-MEPA li toħroġ permess bħal dan. L-issue tal-parking diġa issemmiet fil-Parlament mill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni: li żżid il-parking b’iżjed mid-doppju m’huwiex faċli f’sit li hu ristrett. Ma dan trid taħseb biex iżżid il-faċilitajiet kollha biex il-kapaċita’ tagħhom tkun addattata għad-daqs ġdid tal-isptar. Jiena naħseb li dan ser ikun diffiċli ħafna. Naħseb li l-anqas jekk l-isptar jitwaqqa’ u jsir disinn mill-ġdid ma jista’ jinħoloq disinn aċċettabbli minħabba li is-sit hu wieħed ristrett!

Meta tqabbel din id-diffikulta’ mal-flessibilita’ sostanzjali li joffri l-Isptar San Luqa, t-team tan-negozjaturi u l-konsultenti tagħhom mill-Fondazzjoni għas-Servizzi Mediċi għandhom ħafna x’jisjegaw. Għax jekk diġa jidher ċar x’diffikultajiet hemm għalfejn tibda l-mixja f‘dak l-isqaq ?  Sqaq li fi żmien tlett snin jista’ jfisser li l-proċess ikollu jerġa’ jibda mill-ġdid b’ħela ta’ ħafna żmien u fondi pubbliċi.

It-tieni punt li rrid nagħmel hu dwar il-fatt li meta l-Gvern għażel li jikkonsidra l-Isptar San Filep immedjatament eskluda l-alternattivi l-oħra kollha li seta kien hemm.

Eskluda l-iSptar San Luqa li dwaru jidher li sar studju dettaljat, skond ma qal il-Ministru Cassar. Dan l-studju identifika li għall-isptar kollu l-ispiża ta’ refurbishment kienet ser tigi tiswa’ ftit inqas minn €40 miljun. Issa biex jinħoloq Sptar ta’ Riabilitazzjoni ta’ 280 sodda m’hemmx bżonn tal-Isptar San Luqa kollu iżda biss parti minnu. Meta tqis id-dewmien ta’ 4 snin negozjati mill-2008 lil hawn (u min jaf kemm ser indumu iktar) hu ċar li kieku ittieħdet id-deċiżjoni favur l-Isptar San Luqa mill-ewwel fl-2008, l-isptar ta’ riabilitazzjoni ilu lest u jiffunzjona għal tlett snin. B’deċiżjoni bħal din favur l-iSptar San Luqa  l-pazjenti kieku ilhom li emigraw għal  faċilitajiet aħjar mill-kurituri tal-isptar Mater Dei.

Waqt id-dibattitu Parlamentari ta’ nhar it-Tnejn issemmiet ukoll il-possibilita li hemm sidien ta’ lukandi  li kienu interessati li jipproponu illi l-lukanda tagħhom tkun konvertita għall-użu ta’ sptar ta’ riabilitazzjoni. Jiena naħseb li proposta ta’ din ix-xorta toffri diffikultajiet daqs is-sit tal-isptar San Filep  kemm għall-parkeġġ kif ukoll biex tipprovdi l-faċilitajiet kollha meħtieġa. Pero’ qabel ma tara l-proposta u tkun konxju ta’ dak li qed ikun offrut ma tistax tifforma opinjoni definittiva.

Meta nqis kollox naħseb li l-unika proposta sura hi li jintuża l-Isptar San Luqa.

Il-problema ma  ħoloqiex Frank Portelli li iddiskuta ma min kien interessat li jixtri l-isptar tiegħu. Ħoloqha l-Gvern li mexa ħażin mingħajr ma qies sewwa u bir-reqqa l-ftit riżorsi li suppost qiegħed jamministra.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu jagħmel sens li min ħa d-deċiżjonijiet jiġi mgħarbel sewwa qabel ma jkun iffirmat il-kuntratt.   Għalhekk hu meħtieġ li l-Parlament jiċċaqlaq.

published in Illum, Sunday 21st October 2012