Wara t-tkeċċija ta’ Mario: l-ikbar daqqa jħossuha t-tfal

Ma’ Mario tkellimt ftit minuti wara li ħarġet fil-pubbliku l-aħbar tat-tkeċċija. Kien trankwill bħal dejjem. Konvint li għamel kullma seta, l-obbligu tiegħu bħala edukatur.

Hu diffiċli nifhem kif l-Ordni Dumnikan wasal biex iddeċieda li jkeċċi lil Mario minn surmast ta’ St Albert. Mario għandu karattru ferm differenti milli qed jippruvaw ipinġuh. Miegħu dejjem tista’ tiddiskuti u problema qatt ma naf li ħarab minnha: jipprova jsolviha jew jagħti kontribut biex tissolva. Id-diskussjoni taħraq qatt ma ħarab minnha, iżda dejjem kien hemm, preżenti b’argumenti sodi u b’konvinżjoni f’dak li jemmen u jagħmel.

Ma’ Mario ħdimt mill-qrib, issa għal bosta snin fil-partit. Għalih l-iskola kienet ħajtu. Iddedika l-ħin tiegħu kollu għall-iskola. Bosta drabi anke is-Sibt u l-Ħadd kien jibqa’ għaddej bil-ħidma tal-iskola, favur it-tfal. Għax xogħolu ta’ edukatur mhux wieħed limitat minn x’ħin jiftaħ il-bieb tal-iskola sa ma jagħlqu.

Id-dedikazzjoni tiegħu għall-iskola kienet totali: għas-servizz tat-tfal flimkien ma’ sħabu l-għalliema.

Id-daqqa kiefra tal-Ordni Dumnikan bla dubju Mario jħossha. Imma fl-aħħar jirkupra minnha. Mhux l-istess it-tfal. Dawn id-daqqa jibqgħu jħossuha fit-tul. Possibli li ser tagħmel differenza kbira f’ħajjithom!

L-ikbar ħsara li d-Dumnikani għamlu hi lit-tfal. Għalhekk jeħtieġ soluzzjoni malajr. Forsi ma tafx kif, il-medjazzjoni tal-Arċsqof tagħti l-frott. Forsi.

Jistaqsuni: meta ser twarrab?

Il-kritika tal-ħidma tal-ADPD minn xi ġurnalisti xejn ma iddejjaqni, anke meta din ma tkunx ġustifikata, anke meta min jagħmilha jkun għamel ix-xhur jinjorana. Il-kritika, anke meta tkun distruttiva, hi dejjem ta’ għajnuna biex tifhem x’inhu għaddej minn moħħ dak jew dik li tagħmilha. Biex tidentifika u tifhem aġenda moħbija.

Iktar kmieni matul il-ġimgħa kkummentajt fuq dan il-blog li jkun għaqli u fl-interess tal-partit, jekk jiena ma nibqax fit-tmexxija. Hu dejjem tajjeb li jkun hemm uċuħ ġodda, idejn ġodda u ideat ġodda.

Però hu tajjeb li nifhmu li b’uċuħ ġodda mhux bil-fors li nimxu l-quddiem.

Kemm ilni nmexxi l-partit dejjem fittixt li nagħti spazju liż-żgħar u lill-ġodda biex ikunu jistgħu jaħdmu. Mhux biss biex joħorġu b’ideat imma biex ikun possibli li l-ideat tagħhom jirriflettu ruħhom fil-politika tal-partit: kemm f’dak li ngħidu kif ukoll fil-mod kif inġibu ruħna.

Nifhem li hemm min il-kampanja tagħna ma għoġbitux. Hemm min xtaqna b’politika ta’ konfront, imma aħna għażilna politika tar-raġuni li tħalli l-appell għall-emozzjoni fil-ġemb. Dan deher ċar fil-ftit opportunitajiet li ngħatajna f’dibattiti mal-partiti l-oħra. Dak tal-Università hu forsi l-aħjar eżempju li s-sehem tiegħi fih kien appreżżat mill-ġurnalisti ewlenin. Hemm min ma qabilx miegħi: din xi ħaġa naturali. Però l-fatt li meta kont qed nitkellem jien waqa’ skiet perfett uriena li z-żgħażagħ presenti riedu jisimgħu. Kellhom għatx għal informazzjoni u argumenti li normalment ma jisimgħux. Dan ukoll hu kontribut importanti u pożittiv li tajna lill-kampanja elettorali!

Ir-riżultat tal-elezzjoni li bih kważi irduppjajna l-voti li ksibna fl-elezzjoni tal-2017 ifisser li xi ħaġa tajba għamilna, għax kieku dan ma kienx minnu l-voti kienu jonqsu u mhux jiżdiedu.

Bla dubju l-ħidma tagħna hemm ħafna x’jista’ jitjieb fiha.  Dan jiddependi minn diversi affarijiet.

Bosta minn dawk li jaqblu mal-partit u jappoġġawh, anke fil-pubbliku, huma mpenjati f’elf ħaġa: m’għandhomx ċans għall-attiviżmu politiku. Aħna m’għandniex każini, u l-anqas hemm il-ħsieb li jkollna! L-anqas uffiċċju ma’ għandna: fil-fatt meta jkun hemm il-bżonn nislef l-uffiċċju tiegħi għall-laqgħat tal-partit!

Fondi m’għandniex wisq: fil-kampanja infaqna madwar €7,000 u bħalissa għaddejjin b’kampanja biex niġbru l-fondi għax ftit li xejn baqa’!

Dan kollu jillimita l-mod dwar kif nistgħu nwasslu l-messaġġ tagħna. Imma rnexxielna nwassluh, avolja b’diffikultà.

Uħud qed jagħtuni l-pariri dwar x’għandi nagħmel. Anke qed jgħidu li jiena ser nirreżenja meta jiena ma għidt xejn minn dan. Jiena konvint li għandi nagħmel il-wisa’ lil ħaddieħor. Però jkun żball kbir jekk nagħmel kif qed jippretendu uħud li nwarrab immedjatament! Inkun irresponsabbli jekk nagħmel hekk.

Hi responsabbiltà tiegħi li nara l-partit jiffunzjona f’kull ħin. Dan ser nibqa’ nagħmlu sal-aħħar minuta meta ngħaddi t-tmexxija lil ta’ warajja. Dan ser iseħħ imma l-waqt li jseħħ nagħżlu flimkien ma sħabi, biex il-partit, sadanittant, ikompli jissaħħaħ!

The resignation of David Thake

The resignation of David Thake is a positive step.  It takes courage to admit to having acted incorrectly and shoulder the political responsibility for your actions. There are others who should follow in his footsteps. Parliament, as a result would be a much better place.

The fact that the tax misdemeanours of the companies owned by David Thake were revealed through media leaks does not make the case any less serious. It however adds another worrying dimension to the saga: institutional breach of ethics, this time by the tax authorities. The Minister for Finance Clyde Caruana is politically responsible for this. He has to act fast to address the matter.

Registered editors already have a right to request income tax returns of sitting MPs. This right should be extended to VAT returns, not only those submitted personally by sitting MPs but also by companies in which they have a controlling interest. This would do away with selective leaking of damaging tax information which generally targets those who those close to government seek to damage or destroy!

It has been established that the two companies owned by David Thake, namely Vanilla Telecoms Limited and Maltashopper Limited have collected Value Added Tax due on their services and retained the tax collected for a long period of time. His companies, stated David Thake, had a problem with their cash flow and thus they were not in a position to pay up the taxes they had collected.

Vanilla Telecoms Limited owes the exchequer €270,000 while Maltashopper Limited owes another €550,000. This is a substantial sum which has been collected from taxpayers through VAT and includes fines and interest due for non-payment.

There are serious doubts as to whether Thake’s claim that he was simply applying the Covid-19 tax deferral scheme is correct.

Given that most of the pending VAT dues of Thake’s companies date back to substantially before the outbreak of Covid-19 Thake has yet to explain as to why it took him so much time to address the cash flow problems of his companies. He has shed too many crocodile tears in emphasising that faced with cash flow problems he opted to pay his employees rather than the VAT office. His delay in acting to address his cash flow problems has the specific consequence of endangering the livelihood of the very employees, which he is so keen to protect!

It is not correct to describe David Thake as a tax evader. It is unfair to compare him to Bernard Grech, his party leader, who was investigated for tax evasion over the years and opted to pay up on the eve of the PN leadership contest.

In view of the fact that Thake’s companies have yet to submit their accounts it is not yet clear as to the actual cause of his cashflow problems.

The point at issue is whether it is right for David Thake to bankroll his companies through the taxes they have collected as economic operators. The fact that there are others who do likewise, and maybe worse, is no consolation!  He was a member of parliament elected on a good governance platform. The mismatch between his behaviour and his stated beliefs cannot be clearer than this.  This is no minor administrative omission as David Thake emphasised when he announced his resignation.

Its fine to preach good governance. Putting this into practice is a completely different matter. Thake’s resignation, even though he took some time to decide that he should resign, puts some sense back into local politics. Thake’s resignation is a positive contribution to improve standards. Ian Castaldi Paris and Rosianne Cutajar should be next.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 16 January 2022

The golden handshakes must be transparent

It has been reported, in various sections of the press, that Justyne Caruana, former Minister of Education, has received, or will be shortly receiving payment in the region of €30,000 as a result of her ceasing to hold political office. This has occurred after she was forced to resign subsequent to the publication of a damning report from the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life which report concluded that the Ministry of Education, under her political direction, had screwed the exchequer to benefit her “close friend”.

Since 2008 holders of political office who cease to occupy such office have received golden handshakes, substantial sums which some describe as severance pay. The sums disbursed to date are substantial and, over the years, are said to be close to a total of €1,500,000. Holders of political office in receipt of such payments are not just members of Cabinet, as payments have also been made to former Leaders of the Opposition throughout these years.

The applicable criteria are largely unknown. There is no transparency whatsoever in the process.

There is a serious issue of governance.  The Executive is bound to be accountable through ensuring that both the criteria applied as well as the monies disbursed are well known. It is an expenditure from the public purse, so there should be no secrets about it. It is in the public interest to know how the public purse is being managed at all times.

First: the objectives of the payments should be crystal clear. When holders of political office take up their post, generally, they take leave from their current employment or close their private offices if they are professionals. Their job prior to assuming political office may be lost by the time they relinquish office. On the other hand, losing contact with their professional environment will generally place them in a difficult position to reintegrate when their term of political responsibilities draws to an end. 

Hence the objective of these so-called golden handshakes is to compensate for the fact that the holder of political office cannot go back to his/her former job or professional environment. He or she will generally have to start from scratch or almost. Not all cases are identical and hence the criteria drawn up should allow for some leeway. Do they? We do not know as to date these criteria are considered as some state secret!

The objective of the payments made is to ease the transition of the holder of political office back to a normal life.

The second point is to establish who should apply these criteria. From what is known through reports in the media the matter is regulated by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), either directly or through the Cabinet office. This is not on.

Ideally the criteria should be applied by an authoritative person or body separate and distinct from the OPM. The OPM has a finger in the pie, generally, in all the circumstances leading to the appointment to political office or to the dismissal therefrom. It should therefore not be in a position of sugaring resignations with promises of generous hand-outs.

The third point is then to establish the quantum payable.

From what is known, locally, this is established at a month’s salary for every year’s service, subject to a minimum payment of a six-month salary. It is not known whether eligibility is pegged to a minimum period in office.  These payment rates are substantial when compared to those in other jurisdictions. In addition to having smaller payments other jurisdictions subject such benefits to a minimum period in office, generally of not less than one year.

There are also a number of other serious considerations which need to be made. Should loss of political office as a result of an unfavourable election result have the same impact as being dismissed from office or being forced to resign as a result of unethical or unacceptable behaviour?

Specifically, should ending your political appointment in disgrace be rewarded? It should definitely not be so.

These are some of the issues which transparency brings to the fore. We need to discuss them seriously and only then can they be applied ethically and fairly.

It is for these reasons that earlier this week I have requested the Auditor General to investigate the golden handshakes being paid out by the Office of the Prime Minister to former members of the Cabinet. The payments made and the criteria applied should be examined meticulously.

Good governance should be our basic guide.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 9 January 2022

Wara r-riżenja ta’ Justyne

Issa Justyne irriżenjat għat-tieni darba mill-Kabinett ta’ Robert Abela. Il-Kabinett ta’ Abela, l-ikbar wieħed fl-istorja, naqas bi tnejn, Justyne u Rosianne.

Meta irriżenjat Rosianne ma kien daħal ħadd ġdid fil-Kabinett.

Kif diġa għidt, il-każ ta’ Justyne għadu miftuħ, mhux biss għax il-Kumitat Permanenti tal-Parlament dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika għad irid jiddiskuti r-rapport (m’għandux għaġġla) imma ukoll għax hemm riżenji oħra li jeħtieġ li jsiru.

Frank Fabri u Paul Debattista huma mistennija li jwarrbu ma jdumux. Tal-ewwel għax iffirma l-kuntratt abbużiv u illegali u tat-tieni għax kien hu li iffaċilita dan il-qerq kollu billi kiteb ir-rapport li għal xi żmien kien qed jingħad li taparsi kitbu Daniel Bogdanovic u b’hekk ikun jista’ jsir il-ħlas ta’ ħmistax-il elf euro.

Minn kif tkellem Robert Abela jidher li m’għandux għaġġla biex jaħtar Ministru flok Justyne. Dan isaħħaħ ix-xniegħa, li issa ilha ftit ġranet għaddejja, li mhux biss ġejja reshuffle tal-Kabinett dalwaqt, imma li hu ippjanat ukoll li jinbidlu diversi f’karigi mlaħħqin.

Ma ninsewx ukoll li f’Jannar, xahar ieħor, għandu jibda jinstema l-ġuri dwar il-hold-up li falla fuq l-HSBC. Intqal diġa li f’dan il-ġuri jistgħu jsiru rivelazzjonijiet dwar membru ieħor tal-Kabinett ta’ Robert Abela. Din tista’ twassal għal riżenja oħra!

Nistennew u naraw.

Il-Milied it-Tajjeb

Wara Justyne: nistennew issa r-riżenja ta’ Frank Fabri

Ir-riżenja ta’ Justyne kienet inevitabbli.

Setgħet iddum ftit ieħor taħsibha, imma kienet fir-rokna, ma kelliex minn fejn toħroġ.

Din hi t-tieni riżenja bħala riżultat tar-rapporti tal-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. L-oħra kienet Rosianne Cutajar!

Li tirriżenja darbtejn mill-Kabinett fi 23 xahar, kif għamlet Justyne, naħseb li hu record. Juri li l-ġudizzju ta’ Robert Abela li jagħtiha ċans ieħor kien wieħed żbaljat għall-aħħar.

Ir-riżenja ta’ Justyne mhiex il-konklużjoni. Għad hemm iktar : ir-riżenja ta’ Frank Fabri, Segretarju Permanenti li approva l-kuntratt ta’ sieħeb Justyne, Daniel Bogdanovic, issa hu iktar meħtieġa minn qatt qabel.

Fil-ġlieda għall-governanza tajba, fil-ġlieda kontra l-abbuż u l-korruzzjoni, iċ-ċivil għandu rwol importanti. Is-segretarji permanenti għandhom sehem kruċjali f’din il-ġlieda. Min minnhom jonqos li jaghti sehem mhemmx post għalih. Min jiffaċilita l-ħmieġ għandu jitwarrab minnu fih

Il-kuxjenza ta’ George Vella

Intqal ħafna dwar George Vella, l-President tar-Repubblika, u l-kuxjenza tiegħu, u dan wara ir-rapport tal-inkjesta dwar ir-rwol tal-istat Malti u ċ-ċirkustanzi li wasslu għall-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Mhux ser nagħti kaz ta’ dak li qalu ipokriti bħal Jason Azzopardi li dwaru diġa ktibt diversi drabi (ara per eżempju dan : A Christmas Carol for Jason Azzopardi) li għandu ħafna kontijiet pendenti mal-kuxjenza tiegħu. L-ebda żjara fuq il-qabar ta’ Kristu m’hi ser tħassar dawn il-pendenzi!

George Vella kien jifforma parti mill-Kabinett ta’ Joseph Muscat. Qatt ma esprima ruħu fil-pubbliku kontra dak li kien qed jiġri. Nafu minn dak li ntqal fil-media li fil-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista, anke meta kien jifforma parti minnu George Vella, kien hemm diskussjoni mqanqla dwar dak li kien għaddej. Kien hemm numru żgħir ta’ Membri Parlamentari li kienu kritiċi ta’ dak li kien għaddej, fosthom jingħad li kien hemm George Vella.  Dwar dan jiena diġa ktibt 5 snin ilu fil-kuntest tad-dibattitu dwar il-Panama Papers.

Kont għidt hekk nhar it- 3 ta’ Mejju 2016 :

Il-grupp parlamentari laburista m’huwiex kuntent bis-sitwazzjoni. Huwa konxju li s-skiet tal-Partit Laburista quddiem it-taħwid tal-Gvernijiet tas-snin 70 u 80 kienet raġuni ewlenija li kkundannat lill-partit għal 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni. Illum jirrealizzzaw li hu kmieni wisq, wara biss tlett snin, biex il-partit laburista jsib ruħu f’dan it-taħwid kollu. Il-ftit li għamel Joseph dwar il-kaz (anke jekk kosmetiku) għamlu biex jipprova jissodisfa lill-grupp parlamentari tiegħu. Imma xorta ħadd ma hu sodisfatt. Dan kien jidher anke nhar il-Ħadd mill-body language ta’ Joseph x’ħin kien qed jindirizza l-folla fuq Kastilja.

Iċ-ċavetta qegħda f’idejn il-grupp parlamentari laburista biex dan iwassal lill-partit forsi jiġi f’sensieh. Is-soċjetà ċivili ukoll għandha responsabbiltà kbira li tibqa’ ssemma’ leħinha biex tkompli tagħmel il-kuraġġ lil dawk li fil-Partit Laburista qed jinsistu li Konrad (u Keith) għandhom jirriżenjaw. L-intellettwali tal-pajjiż hemm bżonn ukoll li joħorġu mill-friża u jiftħu ħalqhom flok ma jillimitaw ruħhom għat-tfesfis fil-widnejn.

George Vella kien wieħed minn dawk li ppruvaw jikkoreġu l-affarijiet minn ġewwa u ma rnexxielhomx! Għax is-saħħa tagħhom kienet limitata.

L-opinjoni li jiena għandi, u dejjem kelli, dwar George Vella, hi ta’ persuna serja. Nistqarr li xelliftha ftit din il-fehma meta George Vella kien wieħed minn tal-ewwel li appoġġa lil Joseph Muscat meta dan ippreżenta ruħu fl-elezzjoni għal mexxej tal-Partit Laburista (kontra George Abela, Marie Louise Coleiro, Michael Falzon u Evarist Bartolo). Sfortunatament minn kmieni ħafna beda jidher li Joseph Muscat kien bniedem amorali: il-boxxla tiegħu mhiex dak li hu sewwa. Ma jinteressahx dak li hu tajjeb jew ħażin, iżda biss dak li hu popolari.

George Vella iżda mhux amorali, u għalhekk li għandu jirrfiletti iktar fuq ir-responsabbiltajiet politiċi tiegħu tul il-perjodu li dam jokkupa post fil-Kabinett ta’ Joseph Muscat.

Joseph Muscat li hu amorali warrab, kif qal hu stess biex jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà politika ta’ dak li kien għaddej.

Huwa obbligu ta’ George Vella, anke f’isem il-Laburisti ta’ integrità, li bħalhom hemm bosta, li hu ukoll jaċċetta r-responsabbiltà politika għal dak li ġara: irid jew ma jridx is-sehem tiegħu qiegħed hemm, ħadd u xejn m’hu ser iħassru!

Carmelo Abela u s-serqa tal-HSBC

Hu diffiċli biex nemmen li Carmelo Abela kien involut jew b’xi mod assoċjat mal-attentat tas-serqa tal-HSBC Ħal-Qormi.

Il-fatt li hu avversarju politiku ma jagħmlux kriminal.

Il-fatt li ma naqblux fuq diversi aspetti tal-politika ma jiġġustifikax dak li qed jingħad dwaru.

Dan ma jnaqqas xejn mill-gravità tal-allegazzjoni ta’ Ċensu Muscat, il-Koħħu, li għandha tibqa’ tkun investigata bir-reqqa.

Jibqa’ mistoqsija waħda, għalissa. Carmelo Abela għandu jirriżenja jew le minħabba din l-allegazzjoni? Riżenja, f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi tfisser azzjoni biex tnaqqas il-ħsara li din l-allegazzjoni qed tagħmel lis-sistema politika. Mhux ħsara lill-Labour jew lill-PN imma lill-pajjiż kollu.

Li tirriżenja f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi mhux dikjarazzjoni ta’ ħtija, iżda dikjarazzjoni ta’ irġulija. Ma saritx, u probabbilment ma issirx minħabba li fil-politika Maltija ma hawnx serjetà. Kieku kella issir malajr jibda jingħad (bla ġustifikazzjoni): qed tara kif għandu x’jaqsam.

Il-klima politika f’dan il-pajjiż, sfortunatament, ma tħallix lil Carmelo Abela jaqbad it-triq tal-irġulija. Li beda l-passi legali kontra l-kummenti dijaboliċi ta’ Jason Azzopardi kien about time. Imma dak biss mhux biżżejjed.

It-taħwid fl-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar

Qatt ħsibt ftit dwar kif inhu possibli li r-regolatur tal-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art f’Malta jinsab fl-istat ta’ taħwid li qiegħed? Ħarsu ftit lejn il-proċeduri kriminali li għaddejjin bħalissa dwar il-ħasil tal-flus. Wieħed mill-akkużati hu Matthew Pace li sa ftit ilu kien membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Spettur tal-Pulizija li kien qed jixhed fil-każ iddeskrivieh bħala professjonist tal-ħasil tal-flus:  a professional money launderer.

Ftit jiftakru li f’Ġunju 2018 kellna aħbar li l-FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit) kienet immultat lil  Matthew Pace is-somma ta’ €38,750 minħabba li ma segwiex il-liġijiet kontra l-ħasil tal-flus meta kien qed jieħu ħsieb l-investimenti tal-klijent tiegħu Keith Schembri. Dan kien fatt magħruf. Mid-dehra l-Gvern kien kuntent bih, għax ma għamel xejn dwaru. Qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Ikun interessanti nkunu nafu jekk il-konsulent legali tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, ċertu Dr Robert Abela, ġibitx l-attenzjoni tal-Awtorità dwar il-ħtieġa li taġixxi dwar dan. Jekk le, forsi l-istess Dr Robert Abela bħala l-konsulent legali ta’ Joseph Muscat ġibidlu l-attenzjoni dwar dan? Ma smajna xejn dwar dan kollu.  ilkoll kompromessi. Governanza tajba? U mhux hekk tgħid.

Matthew Pace għamel snin membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Kien biss wara l-każ ċar ta’ kunflitt ta’interess tiegħu  fil-każ tal-applikazzjoni ta’żvilupp mill-Grupp dB f’Pembroke li kien sfurzat jirreżenja u dan wara pressjoni pubblika minn ambjentalisti. Ngħid li kien “sfurzat” għax wara li l-Qorti annullat il-permess mogħti lill-Grupp dB fuq il-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Matthew Pace hu kien għall-ewwel irrifjuta li jwarrab. Kien ippruvat li huwa ħa sehem fil-laqgħat li wasslu għal deċiżjoni dwar il-permess tad-dB f’Pembroke, u ivvota favur din l-applikazzjoni.  Fl-istess ħin kellu interess f’aġenzija tal-propjetà li kienet qed tbiegħ  partijiet minn dan l-iżvilupp sa minn qabel mal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, bil-vot tiegħu stess favur, approva din l-applikazzjoni! Dik governanza tajba. Dik imġieba korretta!

Din hi l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Sfortunatament il-membri l-oħra tal-Bord huma ukoll effettwati minħabba l-assoċjazzjoni tagħhom miegħu.  Iridu jgħaddu snin kbar qabel mar-regulatur jirkupra minn dan.

Imma hemm iktar minn hekk.

Ambjentalisti skoprew, kważi b’kumbinazzjoni, li c-Chairman attwali tat-Tribunal ta’ Reviżjoni dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar  (EPRT) li jisma’ appelli dwar każijiet ta’ ippjanar tal-użu tal-art u oħrajn dwar l-ambjent huwa ukoll impjegat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar.  Presentement qiegħed b’leave bla ħlas mill-impjieg normali tiegħu mal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar bid-dritt li jmur lura għall-impieg normali tiegħu hekk kif tintemm il-ħatra tiegħu bħala Chairperson tat-Tribunal.  

Kif jista’ impjegat tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jikkunsidra appelli minn deċiżjonijiet li jieħu min jimpjegah? Dan imma hu dak li jagħmel kuljum ic-Chairman tal-EPRT.  L-anqas jekk jipprova ma qatt jista’ jkun imparzjali. Imma meta inġibditlu l-attenzjoni dwar dan ma qabilx li s-sitwazzjoni partikolari tiegħu titfa dell fuq l-imparzjalità tiegħu meta jiddeċiedi dwar kazijiet tal-ippjanar dwar l-użu tal-art. Fl-aħħar ser tkun il-Qorti li jkollha tiddeċiedi u l-ħsara li tkun saret sadanittant ser tkun waħda kbira.

It-taħwid, kif qed taraw, hu kbir. B’dawn in-nuqqasijiet etiċi ħadd m’għandu jiskanta li l-proċess dwar l-użu ta’ l-art tilef kull kredibilità.  

A mess by design

Did you ever wonder why it is possible for the land use planning regulator in Malta to be in such a mess? Just take a look at the criminal proceedings currently under way on money laundering. A former Planning Authority Board member, Matthew Pace, is one of the accused. A police inspector, explaining the investigation results has described him as a professional money launderer.

Few may remember that, way back in June 2018, an item in the news had announced that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) had fined Matthew Pace the sum of €38,750 for breaching a number of anti-money laundering laws when dealing with investments held by a client of his named Keith Schembri. It was public knowledge and government was apparently happy as it did not act about it.

It would be interesting to know if the then legal advisor of the Planning Authority, a certain Dr Robert Abela, had flagged the issue and drawn the attention of the Authority on the need to take action. If not, could the legal advisor to Joseph Muscat, the same Dr Robert Abela, have drawn attention of his then boss to the matter? We have heard nothing about it. As we are by now aware, they are all compromised. Good governance my foot!

Mr Matthew Pace spent years as a member of the Planning Authority Board and it was only after his blatant case of conflict of interest in the dB Pembroke case that he was forced to resign as a result of public pressures by environmentalists. I say he was “forced to resign” as, when the Court annulled the dB Pembroke permit on the basis of Matthew Pace’s conflict of interest, he initially refused to make way. It was proven that he sat in judgement and participated in the decision on the dB Pembroke permit, voting in favour of its approval. Simultaneously he had an interest in an estate agency which was already “selling” units forming part of the dB Pembroke development even before the development permit was approved by the Planning Board with Matthew Pace’s vote in favour! Governance at its best!

This is the Planning Authority. Unfortunately, the other members of the Board are impacted by association. It will be many years before this regulator recovers.

There is more.

Environmentalists have discovered, almost by accident, that the current Chairman of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) while sitting in judgement on appeal cases concerning planning and environmental issues is still an employee of the Planning Authority. He is currently on leave without pay having the right to return to his employment with the Planning Authority when his current term as Chairman of the EPRT expires.

How can an employee of the Planning Authority sit in judgement on the decisions of his employer? Yet this is what the Chairman of the EPRT does every day. He cannot by any stretch of the imagination be impartial even if he tries his very best. Yet whenever he was challenged, he has refused to accept that his specific circumstances render him unsuitable to Chair the EPRT in all cases concerning the Planning Authority. This matter will eventually have to be decided by the Courts with possible considerable consequences.

The mess gets worse every day.

With these ethical failures it is no wonder that the credibility of the land use planning process has gone to the dogs.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 28 March 2021