Pilatu fid-dawl tax-xemx

L-istorja dwar Egrant Inc. ilha sena fl-aħbarijiet. Ilha tinħema 4 snin minn ftit wara l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2013 meta twaqqfet flimkien ma kumpaniji oħra.

L-ewwel kellna lil Konrad Mizzi bil-kumpanija tiegħu Hearnville Inc.. Ftit wara Keith Schembri bil-Kumpanija tiegħu Tillgate Inc.. Ħin minnhom daħal fl-istorja Adrian Hillmann tat-Times of Malta ma kumpaniji oħra fil-Panama u fpostijiet oħra. Hillmann kien l-uniku wieħed sissa li irriżenja (jew ġie mġiegħel jirriżenja).

L-istorja, kif bla dubju tiftakru, saret waħda pubblika wara li nkixfu l-Panama Papers. Miljuni ta dokumenti sigrieti dwar diversi kumpaniji imwaqqfa minn persuni pubbliċi u privati madwar id-dinja kollha ma baqawx iktar sigrieti. Inkixfu u tperrċu mal-erbat irjieħ tad-dinja.

Il-qalba tal-problema mhiex il-ħolqien tal-kumpaniji imma l-iskop li għalih dawn jitwaqqfu. Kumpaniji sigrieti, kif għidt fartiklu ieħor ma jinħolqux biex fihom jitfaddlu d-domni jew is-santi. Dawn il-kumpaniji jitwaqqfu biex fihom jinħbew flejjes u assi oħra min għajnejn l-awtoritajiet. Dan il-ħabi jsir għal żewġ raġunijiet : biex ikun evitat il-ħlas tat-taxxi, u/jew biex jinħeba l-frott tal-korruzzjoni.

Iddur kif iddur, il-politiku u dawk ta madwaru qatt ma jistgħu jiġġustifikaw il-ħolqien ta dawn il-kumpaniji. Għax dawn ġeneralment  ifissru involviment fil-korruzzjoni inkella fl-evażjoni tat-taxxa. Għalhekk il-polemika.

Tnejn mill-kumpaniji ilna nafu ta min huma. Ta Konrad Mizzi u ta Keith Schembri. Inkixfu kmieni u kien għadu ma sar l-ebda użu minnhom, skond kif kien intqal dakinnhar. Kienet inkixfet korrispondenza dwar il-possibilitá ta ftuħ ta kontijiet ma diversi banek. Kien hemm diversi tweġibiet kompromettenti li, iżda, Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri dejjem ċaħdu li kellhom xjaqsmu magħhom jew inkella li kienu inħarġu fuq struzzjoniiet tagħhom. Ftit kienu twemmnu.

Il-polemika baqgħet għaddejja u l-attenzjoni ċċaqalqet lejn it-tielet kumpanija : Egrant Inc. Ta min kienet din?

Niftakru li imkien fil-Panama Papers ma kien hemm l-iċken informazzjoni dwar is-sid jew is-sidien ta Egrant Inc, għax kien intqal li din l-informazzjoni kienet ser tgħaddi bil-fomm fuq Skype. Il-messaġġ kien ċar, mill-ewwel, li l-probabbiltá kbira kienet li kien hemm xi persuna jew persuni importanti ħafna involuti. Importanti iktar minn Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri, jiġifieri.  Ma kienx hemm lok għall-immaġinazzjoni. L-ismijiet possibli kienu limitati ħafna u l-ismijiet probabbli kienu fuq fomm kulħadd!  In-nies ilhom jitkellmu dwarhom!

Nhar il-Ħamis infetaħ kapitlu ieħor. Fuq il-blog tagħha Daphne Caruana Galizia irreferiet għall- dokumenti li skonta qegħdin fis-safe tal-Pilatus Bank u li minnhom jirriżulta li l-kumpanija Egrant Inc hi ta Michelle Muscat u li din il-kumpanija irċeviet diversi flejjes mill-Azerbajġan, l-ikbar waħda minnhom somma ta $1.017 miljun li waslet mingħand bint Aliyev. Mil-livell ta dettall ippubblikat hu ċar li d-dokumenti interni tal-bank huma s-sors tal-istorja. Il-Ġimgħa fil-għaxija ġiet ippubblikata informazzjoni dwar ċertifikat taisħma fliema ċertifikat qed jingħad li l-kumpaniji Dubro Limited S.A. u Aliator S.A. għandhom fidejhom ishma tal-kumpanija Egrant u dan fisem is-Sinjura Michelle Muscat. Imma d-dokumenti infushom li minnhom qed ikun ikkwotat sissa għadhom mhumiex ippubblikati. Ma nafx għaliex.  Hemm bżonn li jinħarġu għad-dawl tax-xemx id-dokumenti kollha li fuqhom hi ibbażata l-istorja. Dan hu neċessarju għax dak li qed jingħad hu ikkontestat.

Għalkemm din l-istorja ilha tinħass ġejja, xorta meta ġiet tinħass iebsa ħafna. Hi ta gravitá kbira u tista tkun dak li  jispjega l-għaliex Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri ma tkeċċewx is-sena l-oħra meta ħarġet l-aħbar li kellkom il-kumpaniji sigrieti.

TaPilatus caħdu kollox, bħalma għamlu tan-Nexia BT u ovvjament Joseph u Michelle Muscat.

Bosta huma konvinti mill-veraċitá tal-istorja. Imma li tkun moralment konvint li l-istorja hi korretta mhux biżżejjed. Din l-istorja teħtieġ il-konferma li tiġi mill-provi tad-dokumenti u mhux mid-dimostrazzjonijiet. Għax fuq id-dokumenti hi mibnija. Allura hemm obbligu li dawn id-dokumenti tant bażiċi jaraw id-dawl tax-xemx.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : 23 t’April 2017

 

 

 

Spotlight on Pilatus Bank

 

The Egrant Inc. story has been in the news for the past year: it has been developing for over the four years since the 2013 general elections, when it was set up together with other companies.

First we had Konrad Mizzi with his company Hearnville Inc. Then we had Keith Schembri with his company, Tillgate Inc. The matter became public when the Panama Papers were disclosed. Millions of hitherto secret documents about companies set up by public and private individuals all around the globe were made public. 

The core of the issue is not the setting up of the companies but the objectives for which they were set up. Secret companies are normally set up for the concealment of financial and other assets in order to avoid the taxman or to conceal the fruits of corruption.

The owners of two of the companies are already known. One of them is Minister Konrad Mizzi while the other is the Prime Ministers Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. Their identity was disclosed over 12 months ago, when it was declared that their Panama companies had not yet been put to use. When the Panama Papers were published it became known that correspondence with several banks had been exchanged relative to the opening of bank accounts for the said companies. Requests and commitments were spotlighted but Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri disclaimed any association with this correspondence and commitments identified.  No one believed them then.

The polemic went on and the focus shifted towards the third company: Egrant Inc. Who was its ultimate beneficial owner?

We should remember that the Panama Papers did not shed any light on the identity of the owner or owners of Egrant Inc. because this information was never communicated in a written manner: it was communicated over Skype. The message conveyed was immediately clear that in all probability some big-head was involved and that he or she was more important than Konrad Mizzi or Keith Schembri.  There was no room for imagination as the possible names were limited in number with the actual names being on the tip of everyones tongue.

On Thursday, a new chapter was opened. Daphne Caruana Galizia, on her blog, referred to documents that she said were in the safe of Pilatus Bank. These documents identified Michelle Muscat as the ultimate beneficial owner of the company Egrant Inc. It was also stated that this company received money transfers from Azerbaijan, including the sum of $1.017 million on the instructions of the daughter of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.  

The level of detail described by Daphne Caruana Galizias blogpost indicates very clearly that this was based on the contents of bank documents. On Friday evening, additional information relating to a certificate of trust was published. This information, the validity of which was contested by Joseph Muscat, states that the company Dubro Limited S.A. and Aliator S.A.  hold shares in the company Egrant Inc. on behalf of Mrs Michelle Muscat.  But the documents from which this information is being extracted are still unpublished.  I do not know why this is so. It is necessary that these documents, fundamental to the issue under consideration, see the light of day. This is essential because the information published is being contested.  

The information published is serious stuff. It may be the reason why Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri were not dismissed from office last year when the Panama Papers were published.

Pilatus Bank, Nexia BT, Joseph and Michelle Muscat have denied the published information.  Many are  convinced on the veracity of the story, but being morally convinced is not sufficient. Proof only results from authentic documentation but certainly not from demonstrations. It is for this reason that the full disclosure of all the documentation on which the published information is based is an essential  prerequisite.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 23 April 2017

Fid-dell ta’ Aliyev

Għadu kmieni biex wieħed jifforma opinjoni dwar kemm il-Bank ta Pilatus kien qed jirriċikla l-flus maħmuġin mal-erbat irjieħ tad-dinja fisem il-klijenti tiegħu. Dan minħabba li l-fatti, dejjem jekk seħħew, sissa la ġew spjegati biżżejjed u l-anqas sostanzjati fil-pubbliku.

Allegazzjonijiet isiru l-ħin kollu imma ftit ikunu sostanzjati. Meta dawn il-provi ma jkunux imperċin dan ikun ifisser jew li ma seħħux kif intqal, inkella li dawn il-provi ser jibqgħu kunfidenzjali għax ikun meħtieġ li jkun protett is-sors tal-informazzjoni.

Il-gravitá tal-allegazzjonijiet bil-fors tqajjem punt interogattiv dwar jekk dak li jkun qed jintqal hux minnu jew le. Avolja qegħdin fi żmien li ma tantx ser nistagħġbu jekk dak allegat seħħx verament.

Nafu li t-tmexxija tal-Ażerbajġan hi waħda minn l-iktar korrotti fid-dinja u għalhekk anke l-fatt biss li pajjiżna qed jidher viċin wisq ta dan il-pajjiż hu minnu innifsu ta tħassib. Bħalma hu tad-daħq, jew forsi aħjar tal-biki żżjarat spissi tal-Ispeaker tal-Parlament Malti fdan il-pajjiż fejn spiss smajnieh jgħidilna kemm hu demokratiku u trasparenti Aliyev. Ovvjament dawn iċcertifikati ta’ Anglu Farrugia ftit jikkonvinċu nies dwar Aliyev, imma bla dubju jixħtu dell konsiderevoli fuq dak li Mr Speaker jifhem b’demokrazija u trasparenza.

Huwa fdan il-kuntest li wieħed irid ipoġġi dak li qed jintqal.

Għax pajjiżna jidher li dieħel fl-industrija tar-riċiklaġġ. Mhux dik assoċjata mal-ħarisen tal-ambjent imma l-prodott tal-korruzzjoni.

Coalition building: beyond the arithmetic

It is pretty obvious that the primary – and possibly the only – objective that the Nationalist Party seeks to attain through its proposed coalition is to numerically surpass the Labour Party when the first count votes are tallied after  the forthcoming general election. Should this materialise, it could be a stepping stone on the basis of which, possibly, it could return to office on its own or in coalition.

The rest, that is to say beyond the first count vote tally, is all a necessary evil for the PN.

In contrast, Alternattiva Demokratikas objectives go beyond arithmetic. Alternattiva Demokratika favours a principle-based coalition, ethically driven,  in conscious preference to a pragmatic-based one that is driven exclusively by arithmetic considerations.

A principle-based coalition asks questions and demands answers continuously. The path to be followed to elect the first Green MPs is just as important as the objective itself. This is not simply  a minor inconsequential detail: it is a fundamental difference in approach.

Alternattiva Demokratika is continuously being tempted to discard its principled approach on the basis of a possible satisfactory result being within reach: now is the time, we are told, to join Simon Busuttils coalition in the national interest.  

Alternattiva Demokratika has always given way to the national interest. It is definitely in the national interest to discard (at the earliest possible opportunity) the two-party system that is the cause of the current political mess. In this context, at AD we do not view the PN (or the PL for that matter) as a solution. Both are an intrinsic part of the problem. Even if they are not exactly equivalent, together they are the problem. Parliament has been under the control of the two-party system  without interruption for the past 52 years. This is ultimately responsible for the current state of affairs as, due to its composition, Parliament has been repeatedly unable to hold the government of the day to account.

It is the worst kind of political dishonesty to pretend that the PN is whiter than white when criticising the Labour Partys gross excesses during the past four years. Labour has been capable of creating the current mess because the last PN-led government left behind quasi-toothless institutions, such that, when push came to shove, these institutions were incapable of biting back against abuse in defence of Maltese society: so much for the PNs commitment to good governance.

The PN is also  still haunted by its own gross excesses including:

1) Claudio Grechs incredible declaration on the witness stand in Parliaments Public Accounts Committee that he did not recollect ever meeting George Farrugia during the development of the oil sales scandal, George Farrugia being the mastermind  behind it all.   

2) Beppe Fenech Adamis role in the nominee company behind the Capital One Investment Group/Baltimore Fiduciary Services . In quasi similar circumstances, former Labour Party Treasurer Joe Cordina was forced to resign and was withdrawn as a general election candidate.

3) Mario DeMarcos error of judgement (with Simon Busuttils blessing) in accepting the brief of Silvio Debonos db Group in relation to the provision of advisory legal services on the Groups acquisition from Government of land at Pembroke, currently the site of the Institute for Tourism Studies, and this when his duty a Member of Parliament was to subject the deal to the minutest scrutiny and thereby hold government to account.

4) Toni Bezzinas application for a proposed ODZ Villa at the same time that, together with others, he was drafting an environment policy document on behalf of the PN in which document he proposed that this should henceforth  be prohibited.

5) Simon Busuttils alleged attempt to camouflage political donations as payment for fictitious services by his partys commercial arm, thereby circumventing the Financing of Political Parties Act.

How can the Nationalist Party be credible by declaring itself as the rallying point in favour of good governance and against corruption when it took no serious action to clean up its own ranks? Apologies are a good start but certainly not enough: heads must roll.

A coalition with a PN that closes more than one eye to the above is bound to fail, as the behaviour of the PN and its leadership is clearly and consistently diametrically opposed to its sanctimonious declarations.

These are very serious matters: they need to be suitably and satisfactorily addressed as a pre-condition to the commencement of any coalition talks.  Time is running out and this is being stated even before one proceeds to identify and spell out the red lines – ie the issues that are non-negotiable.

Addressing the arithmetic issues concerning the general election and then ending up with a new government with such an ambivalent attitude to good governance would mean that we are back to the point from which we started.    Nobody in his right mind would want that and Alternattiva Demokratika would certainly not support such double speak.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16 April 2017

Mhux kulħadd bħal Salvu

Għamel tajjeb il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni li rrefera t-trasferiment tal-art fPembroke fejn hemm l-Istitut għall-Istudji Turistiċi għand l-Awditur Ġenerali għal investgazzjoni, għax dan hu trasferiment li fih bosta irregolaritajiet.

Ftit ħin wara li Simon Busuttil għamel id-dikjarazzjoni li ser imur għand l-Awditur Ġenerali huwa irċieva SMS li biha ċ-CEO tal-kumpaniji ta Silvio Debono talbu lura l-flus li kienu ngħataw bħala donazzjoni lill-PN. Hu ċar għal kulħadd li dan mgħamlux brispett lejn il-liġi, jew minħabba li jrid is-serjetá, iżda bi tpattija immedjata. Kuntrarjament għal dak li qal il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni dan ma kienx rikatt iżda ritaljazzjoni għal dak li kien diġa intqal.

Imma bħala riżultat ta din ir-ritaljazzjoni min-naħa ta Silvio Debono, sirna nafu mingħand l-istess Debono li fl-2016 huwa kien intalab jagħmel ħlasijiet ta 70,800 għal servizzi li ma kellux bżonn imma li kienu ser iservu għall-ħtiġijiet ta Partit Nazzjonalista. Debono żied jgħid li tħejjew invoices u ħallashom.

Ħadd ma jista jeħodha kontra l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni li mar għand l-Awditur Ġenerali biex dan jinvestiga dak li jidhru li huma irregolaritajiet kbar. Imma bla dubju dan il-pass tajjeb ta Simon Busuttil ma jikkanċellax l-abbużi li qed ikun allegat li saru dwar donazzjonijiet lill-Partit Nazzjonalista li ukoll jeħtieġu li jkunu investigati.

Huwa ovvju li Debono mhux qed jitkellem għax iħobb l-ordni, is-serjetá u l-osservanza tal-liġi. Imma jekk dak li qed jgħid Debono seħħ, u nistennew li jkunu prodotti l-provi dwar dan, dan huwa abbuz gravi u jeħtieġ li jkun investigat.  Dan mhux tfettieq kif qed jippruvaw jgħidu xuħud.

Jekk dak li qed jgħid Debono seħħ ifisser li nkisru l-iktar prinċipji bażiċi tal-liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti Politiċi. Nistenna li ma ndumux ma naraw kopja tal-irċevuti u l-kontijiet li nħarġu biex jiġġustifikaw il-ħlas.

L-istorja ma tieqafx hawn. Għax dan kollu għandu konsegwenzi li m’humiex żgħar.

Jekk ippruvat, dan ifisser li l-Partit Nazzjonalista jipprietka s-serjetá fil-pubbliku, imma imbagħad, fejn ma jidhirx, jagħmel mod ieħor.

Jekk ippruvat dan ifisser li hi illużjoni li naħsbu li wara dawk l-uċuħ mimlija qdusija hemm min għandu rieda tajba.

Ifisser fuq kollox li filwaqt li qatt mgħandna nagħlqu l-bibien għal ħadd, irridu noqgħodu bseba għajnejn il-ħin kollu għax bejn dak li jidher u dak li hemm fil-fatt tezisti differenza kbira.

Għax kif tista tippreżenta front wieħed u magħqud kontra l-korruzzjoni jekk min jilgħaba tal-paladin tal-imġieba tajba jgħid mod fid-deher u jagħmel ieħor meta ma jidhirx. Mhux kulħadd għandu fiduċja għamja f’Simon Busuttil bħalma għandu Salvu. Dak jaħseb li l-maħmuġ jista xi darba jirreklama l-indafa. Erħilu li sa ftit ilu kien konvintissimu li mhemmx xtagħżel bejn il-PN u l-PL. Imma issa ikkonverta u donnu nesa’ kollox.

Dak li naraw bgħajnejna u mmissu bidejna ma nistgħux ninjorawh. Il-ħmieġ jibqa’ ħmieġ, jagħmlu min jagħmlu. Imma meta jitwettaq minn min jagħmel il-ġurnata kollha jipprietka l-indafa, tajjeb ukoll li jkun ċar li mhux qed jirnexxielu jgħaddina biżżmien.

 

 

Joseph’s  helicopter view

ey-attractiveness-survey-2016

The Chamber of Commerce is rightly concerned about the reputational damage that will inevitably result from a lack of institutional transparency as well as ever-diminishing good governance.

This was emphasised by Chamber President Anton Borg on Monday when addressing an event at which the Prime Minister was present. Mr Borg was quoted as stating: “Our business community fears that we are regressing on an important non-cost element of competitiveness. I refer to the country’s reputation in terms of the transparency and the integrity of our institutions.”

Well said, Mr Borg. It is about time that the business community says publicly what most of its members say in private. Mr Borg’s message was clear – even though he was very diplomatic in driving it home. He referred to the recent Ernst and Young attractiveness survey which reported a 15 per cent drop over 2015 in the perception of Malta’s political stability and regulatory transparency. He even referred to the 10 point drop in Malta’s placing in the International Corruption Index published by Transparency International.

The next day, Malta Employers’ Association outgoing President Arthur Muscat drove the message further home by emphasising that a 10 place fall in the corruption index is not an indicator of good governance.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who was present when Mr Borg delivered his stern warning, immediately activated an ostrich line of defence by retorting that investment was still being attracted to the country and emphasising that business does not invest in corrupt countries.

Well I am not so sure about the Honourable Prime Minister’s statement.

Anton Borg and Arthur Muscat are very decent chaps and they will do everything it takes to stay above the political fray. But they are conscious that these are not normal times. On behalf of their members, they have stood up to be counted.  It is very positive that, through Mr Borg and Mr Muscat, the business community is prepared to take a definite stand against the ever-increasing lack of transparency in public administration as well as in favour of good governance.

In an introductory note on the EY 2016 attractiveness survey entitled The future is today, EY’s Ronald A. Attard says:    “Malta remains attractive to foreign investors. Indeed, this year’s scores are the highest in the last three years. Yet, this ‘helicopter view’ hides significant shifts on the ground, that cannot be ignored. To get the full picture, we need to install a telescope on the helicopter.”

Apparently Prime Minister Joseph Muscat prefers to limit himself to the helicopter view, as a result ignoring the significant shifts on the ground. The view from the ground – as attested by the attractiveness survey – reveals that over a period of 12 months the percentage of those surveyed who consider  that the stability and transparency of the political, legal and regulatory environment  is very attractive or attractive has dipped from 85 per cent to 70 per cent.

The reality on the ground is changing, but this is not immediately obvious to those enjoying a helicopter view.

The Corruption Perceptions Index for 2016 published by Transparency International, on the other hand, sees Malta classified at 47th place, down ten places from 2015. This is certainly not a good sign and only maybe encouraging to government advisor Shiv Nair, blacklisted by the World Bank for corruption activities.

Joseph Muscat is apparently worried and wants to protect us from “abusive” journalists.  It would be much better if he ensures that the institutions established specifically to protect us are allowed to function as intended. This is apparently not so obvious from high up in the helicopter but is pretty obvious to an ever-increasing number of those on the ground.

This country has much to offer – its potential is immense; but we must weed out the parasites at the earliest opportunity.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 March 2017

 

Koalizzjoni: mhux kontra Muscat imma favur il-governanza tajba

 

Muscat + Busuttil

 

Simon Busuttil qalilna li l-PN jrid imexxi koalizzjoni kontra l-korruzzjoni. Bil-passat riċenti tiegħu il-PN mhux postu fdin ix-xorta ta koalizzjoni. Koalizzjoni kontra l-korruzzjoni mhiex kredibbli bil-PN jifforma parti minnha.

Bħala riżultat tat-telfa madornali tal-2013, il-PN jippretendi li l-passat tiegħu hu maħfur. Hawn sejjer żbaljat għax għad baqa ħafna xjaqta bi snienu sakemm jikseb lura l-kredibilitá.

Għad hemm ħtieġa ta ħafna spjegazzjonijiet dwar każi li l-fatti dwarhom sissa huma mċajpra: dwar l-iskandlu tażżejt, dwar l-artijiet tal-Gvern, dwar is-self mill-Bank of Vassallo u tant affarijiet oħra. Avolja, oħroġ il-għaġeb, donnu ħadd ma jaf xejn.

Il-fatt li feġġew skandli simili kif ukoll skandli agħar (bħal tal-Panama) li għalihom hu responsabbli l-Gvern ta Joseph Muscat, u probabbilment Joseph Muscat innifsu, ma jfissirx li issa l-PN jista jqis ruħu mnaddaf u lest għat-tmexxija tal-pajjiż. Il-passat imċajpar tal-PN hu viċin wisq biex ninsewħ. L-iskandli tal-lum u l-iskandli tal-bieraħ, flimkien, ifissru li ma hemmx xtagħżel bejn il-PN u l-PL. It-tnejn li huma responsabbli għal tmexxija ħażina.

Jiena kontra l-korruzzjoni, imma ma nħossnix komdu fkoalizzjoni li fiha jkun hemm il-PN, għax fis-siegħa tal-prova l-PN baqa ċass quddiem il-ħmieġ. Faċli titkellem mill-Opposizzjoni. Imma jekk dwar dak li jiġri meta tkun fil-Gvern twaħħal fta taħtek u fta madwarek ħadd ma jista jemmnek.

Jiena kontra l-korruzzjoni imma l-koalizzjoni li rrid nara mhiex waħda kontra Joseph Muscat, imma favur il-governanza tajba. U dwar din mhemmx post għall-PN. Għad baqagħlu ħafna xjitgħallem.

Kompetizzjoni : min hu l-iktar maħmuġ?

skip

 

Bħalissa għaddejja kompetizzjoni bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista dwar min minnhom hu l-iktar maħmuġ.

Jekk tisma lill-kelliema tal-PN jitkellmu jkollok informazzjoni dettaljata dwar katalgu ta ħmieġ li bih hu mifni dan il-pajjiż. Inevitabilment, jekk tkun smajt lil tal-PN biss jitkellmu tikkonkludi kemm hu żventurat dan il-pajjiż!

Min-naħa l-oħra, wara li tkun smajt lil Owen Bonnici jew lil Deborah Schembri, bi qdusija kbira, jitkellmu dwar l-aħħar każ ta Jason Azzopardi, bil-fors li tibda titkellem waħdek u tibda tistaqsi bejnek u bejn ruħek jekk hux qed tisma sewwa. Għax, tgħid: dan Jason li qed jitkellmu dwaru mhux dak li jippontifika dwar il-korrettezza? Ara trid tkun vera wiċċek imdellek biex titkellem bħal Jason Azzopardi, joħroġ żewġ rapport dwarek l-Awditur Ġenerali u qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Min hu l-iktar maħmuġ? Tagħmel xi differenza dwar min hu l-iktar jew l-inqas maħmuġ? Għax għalija l-grad tad-differenza fil-ħmieġ bejniethom hu irrelevanti. It-tnejn maħmuġin u mhemmx xtagħżel bejniethom. Ma tistax tafda lil ħadd minnhom.

Jieħu għalih min irid.   

Evarist trusts you

evarist-bartolo

 

The probe into the corruption allegations at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools is a very serious matter. Reports in the press indicate that the invoices, issued for the construction work carried out by the Foundation at various schools, are being meticulously examined in order that information which might be of relevance to the investigation is gathered.

Of particular interest is the news item that the financing of a newly constructed block of flats at Rabat is under the spotlight. The block of flats, still in shell form, belongs to the person under investigation. It is being emphasised that the fruits of the alleged corruption may have financed the Rabat development. The said site is covered by development permit PA1215/15 as amended by subsequent application PA0260/16. The Planning Authority  permitted the demolition of the previous dwelling on the site and the construction of a five-floor residential block, inclusive of a penthouse and a semi-basement garage in its stead. According to the Planning Authority website, the applicant was Edward Caruana and work on the site commenced on the 19 July 2015.

So far, the press, in part echoing the PN spokespersons, have concentrated firepower on whether the Education Minister Evarist Bartolo acted swiftly enough to ensure that the matter beplaced under investigation.

While the obvious course of immediate action is for the police to investigate in order to identify whether the alleged corruption took place or not, in my view the problems run much deeper than that. Essentially, the issue is one of bad governance through the use of the “person of trust” –  a 21st century version adaptation of a system of political clientelism.

A “person of trust” in Maltese political jargon generally signifies that the person has a political allegiance to the politician who trusts him. Actually, however, it should have a completely different meaning: that the person so appointed is beyond reproach, rather than his being in the Minister’s good books. In fact the person under investigation (Edward Caruana) who was entrusted with procurement duties in the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools was a political canvasser of the Education Minister Evarist Bartolo. Incidentally, Mr Caruana’s brother too is a trusted person: he was appointed Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry.  We do remember the manner in which all Permanent Secretaries in office were swept aside way back in March 2013 to be replaced by a team of “persons of trust”.

The engagement of “politically” trusted persons is not a matter peculiar to Evarist Bartolo’s Ministry, or to the government of which he forms part. While it has been going on for a number of years, it has been done on a much larger scale since the 2013 General Election. In most cases, unfortunately, the political trustworthiness of an individual makes short shrift of meritocracy which should be the foundation stone of a serious public administration.

The trusted person mechanism is circumventing the recruitment procedures of the public service, thereby excluding competent and qualified persons for the simple reason that they are not of the required political colour.

Through the recruitment of persons of trust, clientelism is devaluing years of preparation to obtain qualifications. The end result is not just demotivation : corruption and arrogance are the two other most obvious symptoms.

The Ombudsman in Malta has commented various times on the negative impact which excessive direct appointments in the public sector have due to lack of transparency.  Yet he is consistently ignored.

Under the spotlight Minister Evarist Bartolo has exclaimed that he feels betrayed.

We all have the same feeling that those who preached meritocracy are using political trustworthiness in order to ensure that practising clientelism is done in an efficient a manner as possible.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 December 2016

Moving away from Ali Baba politics

 

pile-of-gold-coins

Way back in 2008 during the general election, Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta had put the issue of a possible parliamentary coalition on the national political agenda.

The PN, then, did its best to try and ridicule the proposal as it preferred to go it alone. At the end of the day, the PN just managed to scrape through the general election by the minimum of margins (1580 votes) on a national level. Eventually, however, it had to pay the consequences, as it ended up as a political hostage of a couple of unprincipled mavericks.

Simon Busuttil is trying not to repeat his predecessor’s mistake. He has called for the formation of a coalition against corruption, hoping that until the forthcoming general election, such a coalition will coalesce around the PN. This is similar to the strategy adopted by Joseph Muscat who transformed the Labour Party into what he described as a “movement”. In practice, however, Muscat’s endeavours have only transformed his Labour Party into a modern day version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves!

To date, both the PN and the Labour Party have acted in such a way that the only coalition that made sense to them was the one within their own parties as both of them have over the years developed into grand coalitions, at times, championing diametrically opposed causes simultaneously.

However, coalitions are forged quite differently, at least those coalitions that are intended to contribute positively to the local political kaleidoscope.

The first foundation on which coalitions are built is reciprocal respect. Without reciprocal respect, those forming part of a coalition end up clowning around, trying to impress those around them with their buffoonery.

A second essential prerequisite for a coalition is an agreed political programme which clearly communicates the agreed common objectives of the coalition members. It would obviously be expected that members of such a coalition act in accordance to such an agreed political programme. Supporting environmental protection as an essential element of a programme to better everyone’s quality of life would undoubtedly feature in such an agreed political programme to which Alternattiva Demokratika could adhere. This would also be in line with the PN’s recent “conversion” in support of environmental activism.

It is not however clear how these newly discovered credentials of the PN are manifested by going around patting the management of Palumbo Shipyards and Malta Freeport Terminals on the back, congratulating them on their achievements which have inconvenienced their neighbours in the surrounding localities. This was recently done by the Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil during his visits to the Għajn Dwieli yard and the Kalafrana Terminal.

Consistency by the coalition members is not only desirable, it is an essential prerequisite for a coalition intended to last!

A coalition is not formed just to win an election. On the contrary, it seeks to win an election in order to be in a position to implement an agreed electoral programme. Winning an election is a means to an end and not an end in itself. It is for this reason that coalitions seek to bring together people and political parties who share a sufficient number of ideals on the basis of which they can construct a common electoral platform. Otherwise, what purpose would be served if those forming part of a coalition are not at ease with the new political environment which they seek to create?

For this specific reason, coalitions must be based on sound political principles. Having a coalition or a political party based on anything else is a recipe for the creation of an additional Ali Baba den, of which the present one is more than enough.

A solution to the current ethical crisis, which Malta’s political infrastructure is faced with, will not be delivered by a Parliament which is composed of only two political parties. This ethical crisis can only be overcome if more than two political parties make it to Parliament and if the winner-takes-all mentality and behaviour is consigned to the dustbin of history once and for all . This is both essential and possible without any changes to Malta’s electoral legislation and still allows for like-minded political parties to form a coalition.

It is important that those who have discarded good governance are set aside by the electorate in the forthcoming general election. It is however equally important that the machinery of government is never again entrusted into the hands of one single political party. In Malta’s particular circumstances only this can guarantee that good governance is placed on solid foundations.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 2nd October 2016