Lingering doubts on return to normal

The more Robert Abela brags that “the institutions are working” the longer doubts linger on. In a situation of normalcy, which we have a right to, there is no room for a Prime Minister addressing a press conference as that of last Tuesday (with a repeat on Thursday morning), on the police investigations into an assassination.

The Commissioner of Police addressed the press twenty-four hours later, on Wednesday. Commissioner Angelo Gafà was right to do so even if he could not give specific and detailed replies to avoid undermining the investigation at such a critical juncture. We expect the Commissioner of Police to inform us as to what is going on under his watch.

Angelo Gafà’s predecessor could not utter a coherent sentence in his press conferences. He left the running of the show to his deputy, known to the assassination prime suspect as Uncle Silvio.

Robert Abela and his predecessor have been breathing down the neck of the Police Force for far too long for them to realise that this is not normal behaviour in a democratic state. During his Tuesday Press Conference Robert Abela made a statement that could have indicated that he was being briefed on the criminal investigation by the Police. In fact, he stated that no politician, current or former, is in any way associated with the assassination investigation of Daphne Caruana Galizia.  This was clearly rebutted by the Police Commissioner on the morrow in his answers to the press when replying to a similar question. He stated that to date no leads to politicians, past and present have been identified. However, he further emphasised that he does not brief the Prime Minister on investigations.

This is the real news from the Police Commissioner conference. Commissioner Gafà is getting one clear message across: the police does not brief the Prime Minister on ongoing investigations! This is a complete U-turn from past police behaviour. We have learnt from detailed testimony in the assassination criminal case that police officials used to brief former premier Joseph Muscat who would generally be accompanied by his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. Melvin Theuma, the assassination middleman has testified time and again that he was aware of various important aspects of the investigation from his paymaster Yorgen Fenech, Keith Schembri’s friend.

The police, maybe, have learnt the lesson that they have been undermined too many a time by the tenant at Castille Place. In this respect Angelo Gafà’s statement is a much-needed breath of fresh air, a welcome step on the road to normalcy. It is however not enough. Even the tenant at Castille Place must play his part: in such circumstances he should realise once and for all that shutting up is the only way forward.

The assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia did not happen out of the blue but against a background of institutionalised and industrial scale corruption. The police have made progress on the assassination itself. Instead of trying to take credit for the latest developments in the Caruana Galizia case, it is now up to the Prime Minister to deal with the background that led to the assassination. Ignoring that background and its illicit fruits means endorsing it.

The democratic institutions can function if we let them. If the Prime Minister halts his prima donna behaviour it will definitely help a lot. Until such time there are lingering doubts as to whether a return to normal is on the cards yet.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 28 February 2021

Lejn in-normalità

F’pajjiż demokratiku hu normali li l-istituzzjonijiet jaħdmu. Mhux dejjem jaħdmu tajjeb, imma jaħdmu u huma soġġetti għal regolaturi u kontrolli oħra biex meta jiżbaljaw ikunu kkoreġuti.

L-eċitament tal-Prim Ministru l-bieraħ biex jemfasizza l-prova li l-istituzzjonijiet “qed jaħdmu” huwa propja konferma li għad ma wasalniex! Ma hemmx bżonn konferenza stampa biex tkun imħabbra l-wasla tan-normalità. In-normalità hi dak li nistennew u li għandna dritt għalih bla daqq ta’ trombi.

Some reflections on the Mafia State

Reading through the terms of reference for the Public Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, it is amply clear to all as to what the inquiry should be aiming at.

The inquiry’s objective is to determine whether the machinery of government functioned as it should. Did it function in the public interest, or did it function in another manner, in the interest of the few, thereby creating a culture of impunity for the said few?

Some may justifiably argue that the machinery of government, in Malta, never functioned properly. It is further argued that the post 2013 administration made use of a defective machinery of government more efficiently than previous administrations, fine tuning and intensifying political controls in the process, as a result of which the stultification of the functions of the democratic state was accelerated.

The terms of reference agreed to in December 2019 speak of the development of a “de facto state of impunity” and seek to determine whether this could have been avoided through effective criminal law provisions, if such provisions exist.

Do we have a Mafia State? We would definitely have a Mafia State if the machinery of government is tied with organised crime to the extent that state officials become part of a criminal partnership or organisation.

The testimony heard so far in open session during the proceedings of the public inquiry reveals the reluctance of the authorities to investigate thereby paving the way for the development of a culture of impunity. Money-laundering investigations moved at snail’s pace until there was a change in leadership at the Economic Crimes Unit of the Malta Police Force. However, as yet we do not know what was revealed in the testimony behind closed doors. Matters could be considerably worse than what is known so far.

The revelations at the public inquiry must not be seen in isolation. They must be viewed in context of the testimony in the Magistrates Court relative to the criminal proceedings against those accused of carrying out the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, or of masterminding it.

We have learnt that the alleged master-mind has pleaded with the police that he was carrying out the instructions of the Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri, who categorically denied this. The definite truth is not known yet. So far, we are only sure that the assassination planners were too close to the political nerve centre: just like in a Mafia State. It is at the Office of the Prime Minister that the middleman was offered a government job, one which delivered pay for no work. Part payment for his endeavours as a middleman!

The Ministers testifying at the public inquiry were continuously seeking to pass the buck from the Cabinet to the kitchen cabinet. On the other hand, those forming part of this kitchen cabinet feigned ignorance of their role in circumventing the role of the real cabinet. This is the worrying state of play in which those having responsibility take a step backwards as a result of which their authority ends being wielded by those appointed in lieu of those elected. Collective responsibility has been thrown to the winds.

The latest revelations crown it all. Government’s thinly veiled threats in the past days to the members of the judiciary directing the public inquiry reveal a government in panic mode.

Robert Abela’s unease at this point in time is understandable. After all he was former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s legal advisor. How many skeletons in the cupboard is he aware of?

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 20 December 2020

Il-Koħħu u l-Kabinett ta’ Robert Abela

Mhux diffiċli biex tasal għall-isem tal-persuna fil-Kabinett ta’ Robert Abela li dwarha qed issir l-allegazzjoni mill-Koħħu. L-allegazzjoni hi serja ħafna: allegazzjoni li membru tal-Kabinett kien involut fl-ippjanar ta’ delitt.

Li allegazzjoni ta’ din ix-xorta tkun investigata bla dewmien hu essenzjali mhux biss għax is-serjetà hekk titlob imma fuq kollox għax hu ħażin li l-integrità ta’ persuna fil-ħajja pubblika titħalla tiċċappas b’dan il-mod u qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Ma nafx jekk hemmx raġunijiet biżżejjed biex il-Koħħu jingħata l-proklama. Imma hu fl-interess ta’ kulħadd li ma jkollniex persuni fil-ħajja pubblika b’dawn id-dellijiet.

Gvern serju kien jindirizza din l-allegazzjoni f’ħin qasir u kien jagħti sodisfazzjon pubbliku b’mod immedjat.

Dak li ġie allegat dwar membru tal-Kabinett involut fl-ippjanar ta’ delitt għadu mhux miċħud. Kull minuta li tgħaddi bla ċahda hi daqqa ta’ ħarta lill-membri kollha tal-Kabinett.

Kontradizzjonijiet

Jekk wieħed joqgħod biss fuq dak li jgħidu dawk li jitkellmu f’isem il-Gvern, malajr jasal għal konklużjoni żbaljata li qatt ma kellna Gvern favur l-ambjent daqs dan tal-lum. Sfortunatament l-affarijiet huma ferm differenti minn hekk!

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ġie fi tmiemu l-perjodu ta’ sitt ġimgħat konsultazzjoni dwar l-iskop tal-Istrateġija Nazzjonali tal-Biodiversità u l-Pjan t’Azzjoni dwarha li għandu jwassal sal-2030. Għal xi raġuni li s’issa għad mhiex magħrufa l-Awtorità dwar l-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi (ERA), għal dawn l-aħħar snin qed tikkonċentra l-konsultazzjonijiet importanti għax-xhur tas-sajf (b’mod partikolari tul Awwissu) meta hu magħrufa li n-nies tieħu l-vaganzi u allura tistrieħ!

L-Istrateġija Nazzjonali dwar il-Biodiversità u l-Pjan t’Azzjoni assoċjat magħha, bla dubju, meta jkun konkluż ser ifittex li jħares il-kapital naturali tal-pajjiż fit-totalità tiegħu.  

Imma iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, Clint Camilleri, l-Ministru għall-Kaċċa u l-Insib, ħabbar li l-Gvern, għal darb’oħra, ser jerġa’  jipprova jissabotaġġa l-implementazzjoni tal-Direttiva tal-Unjoni Ewropea dwar l-Għasafar billi jipprova jisfrutta xi partijiet minnha!   Il-konsulenti tal-Gvern qed jippruvaw jagħmlu użu minn dik il-parti tad-Direttiva tal-Għasafar li tipprovdi dwar l-istudji xjentifiċi: din tippermetti  l-qbid ta’ numru żgħir ta’ għasafar ħajjin. Dan kollu, fil-fehma tal-Gvern u l-konsulenti tiegħu, jista’ jiġġustifika xi forma ta’ nsib!

Jidher li għadhom ma fehmu xejn: id-Direttiva tal-Għasafar tal-Unjoni Ewropea hi għodda Ewropeja dwar il-ħarsien tal-biodiversità u mhux strument biex jiġġustifika l-kaċċa jew l-insib!

Il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela, il-ġimgħa li għaddiet, waqt li kien qed jindirizza l-Kamra tal-Kummerċ ħabbar viżjoni msejsa fuq ħames punti. Wieħed minn dawn il-punti, li fl-aħħar induna bih, hu l-ħtieġa li naddottaw bħala mira li nilħqu n-newtralità fl-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju. Mira tajba, kieku dak li qed jgħid hu veru!

Dan hu każ ieħor fejn għal darb’ oħra, l-Gvern, ambjentalment qed juri wiċċ b’ieħor, kif wara kollox issa ilna li drajna!  Il-Gvern ilu s-snin iberbaq il-miljuni tal-euro fi żvilupp ta’ infrastruttura ta’ toroq li mhiex meħtieġa: l-iskop uniku hu li jirrinforza d-dipendenza fuq il-karozzi privati għax minnhom jiddipendi ammonti kbar tad-dħul tal-Gvern: minn taxxi fuq petrol u diesel sa taxxi u liċenzji assoċjati mal-karozzi.

Il-Gvern ikkummissjona studji, strateġiji u Pjani Nazzjonali u meta waslu għandu qalibhom ta’ taħt fuq.  Id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Robert Abela favur viżjoni bil-mira ta’ newtralità fl-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju hija f’kontradizzjoni mal-infieq massiċċ tal-Gvern fuq infrastruttura tat-toroq li mhix meħtieġa.  Il-Gvern ta’ Abela, bħal dawk ta’ qablu (ħomor u blu), jaħseb li l-problemi jistgħu jissolvew billi jkunu  bbumbardjati bil-miljuni tal-euro. Il-flus ċertament dejjem ikunu ta’ għajnuna, imma jeħtieġ li jintużaw tajjeb u mhux jitberbqu kif qed iseħħ presentement.

L-ispazju li għandi hu limitat u allura ma nistax nispjega mill-ġdid il-proposti kollha li Alternattiva Demokratika għamlet dwar dan kollu tul is-snin: proposti Ii jiswew farka mill-miljuni li l-Gvern qiegħed iberbaq.  

Ikun biżżejjed li niftakru li l-Pjan Nazzjonali dwar it-Trasport jispjega illi 50 fil-mija tal-vjaġġi li nagħmlu bil-karozzi privati fil-gżejjer Maltin għandhom tul li ma jaqbizx il-ħmistax-il minuta. Dan juri b’mod mill-iktar ċar  mobilità primarjament ta’ natura lokali u reġjonali!  Għal dan la hemm bżonn ta’ flyovers u l-anqas ta’ mini imma qafas biex fih jitħaddem transport lokali u reġjonali.  Huma inizjattivi ta’ din ix-xorta li jnaqqsu l-karozzi mit-toroq li jgħinuna fit-triq diffiċli lejn n-newtralità fl-emissjonijiet tal-karbonju!

Għaddew madwar tlett snin minn meta l-predeċessur ta’ Robert Abela ħa proposta mill-Manifest Elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika dwar il-ħtieġa li nistabilixxu data li minnha lil hemm ma jinbiegħux karozzi li jaħdmu bil-petrol u d-diesel u dan flimkien ma proposti oħra dwar l-elettrifikazzjoni tat-trasport fit-toroq tagħna. Imma l-istudji mwegħda ma jidhrux b’nemes!

Il-kontradizzjonijiet fil-politika ambjentali tal-Partit Laburista jimxu fuq l-eżempju tal-predeċessuri tagħhom fil-Gvern li waqt li kienu jokorbu biex nipproteġu l-ilma fasslu proġett biex l-ilma tax-xita jispiċċa kważi kollu l-baħar. Proġett li spiċċa biex mal-ilma tax-xita, rema’ l-baħar, miljuni ta’ euro f’fondi Ewropej!

Il-paroli tal-Labour u tal-PN dwar l-ambjent qatt ma solva xejn. Għax dejjem jgħidu ħaġa u jagħmlu oħra.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: Il-Ħadd 23 t’Awwissu 2020

Contradictions

Taking government spokespersons at face value could lead to the mistaken conclusion that Labour in government is a defender of the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Earlier this week saw the end of a six-week consultation period relative to the Intent and Objectives of a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan leading to 2030. For some unknown reason the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), for the past years has been concentrating its most important consultations during the summer months, in particular August, the least productive months as they coincide with the holiday period. The National Biodiversity Strategy and relative Action Plan will, when concluded, strive to actively protect our natural capital in its widest sense.

Yet earlier this week Clint Camilleri, Minister for Hunting and Trapping, announced another government attempt to try and sabotage the implementation of the EU Birds’ Directive through seeking potential additional loopholes.  Government advisors are trying to use the provisions of the Birds’ Directive relative to scientific studies, which permit the live capture of a small number of birds, to make a case for local trapping! They seem to not have yet understood that the EU Birds’ Directive is a biodiversity protection tool and not an instrument to justify hunting or trapping in whatever form or shape.

Prime Minister Robert Abela, when addressing the Chamber of Commerce last week, deemed it fit to announce a five-point vision. One of the points which he has at last adopted is the aim of attaining carbon neutrality. Very laudable indeed, if it were true!

This is another case of environmental lip service which we have become accustomed to for a number of years. Government has over the past years been squandering millions of euros in large scale transport infrastructural projects with the specific aim of reinforcing our dependence on the private car. Private cars are the source of large chunks of government income, ranging from taxes on fuel to car licences and registration taxes. Government has commissioned studies, strategies and National Plans which it then turns on their head. Robert Abela’s late conversion to a vision of a carbon neutral Malta is in direct contradiction to the spending spree on road transport infrastructure. His government, like that of his predecessors, red and blue, thinks that problems can be solved by being bombarded with euros, millions of them. Euros certainly help but they must be well spent, not squandered as they currently are.

I haven’t got space today to go through all the proposals which Greens have brought forward over the years, costing a fraction of the millions currently going down the drains. It would suffice to point out that the National Transport Master Plan had identified that 50 per cent of trips using private cars in the Maltese Islands are of a duration of less than fifteen minutes, clearly indicating primarily a mobility that it is local or regional in nature!  We don’t need flyovers, tunnels or underpasses to address this but an efficient local and regional transport network which we currently lack. It is such initiatives which encourage reduction of cars from our roads and help us climb the steep road to carbon neutrality!

It is now almost three years since Robert Abela’s predecessor took a leaf out of the Green Electoral manifesto on proposing a cut-off date on the sale of vehicles operating with internal combustion engines, and on other measures relating to the electrification of our roads. Yet the promised studies are nowhere in sight!

The constant contradictions in environmental positions taken by Labour follow the path entrenched by its predecessors, who, while emphasising the need to protect our water resources devised a project to throw away our storm water directly into the sea, using millions of euros of EU funds which ended up down the drain, with the water.

The environmental lip-service of Labour and the PN has never solved anything, nor will it ever do.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday : 23 August 2020

Messhom ilhom li nqaflu Kordin

Din kienet waħda minn dawk il-ġimgħat li kellu f’moħħu  Harold Wilson mexxej Laburista fir-Renju Unit meta kien emfasizza li fil-politika, ġimgħa hu perjodu twil ħafna.

Hemm żewġ ġrajjiet partikolari li spikkaw din il-ġimgħa. L-ewwel waħda hi d-determinazzjoni tal-Kap tal-PN Adrian Delia li jkisser il-partit li għadu jmexxi. It-tieni grajja hi r-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika  (NAO) dwar il-konċessjoni mogħtija lil  Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) mill-Gvern Malti. Ir-rapport tal-NAO ikkonkluda li bejn il-Gvern u l-Vitals Global Healthcare kien hemm ftehim jew arranġamenti bil-moħbi, minn wara dahar kulħadd.

Kemm il-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern kif ukoll il-Partit Nazzjonalista fl-Opposizzjoni bħalissa huma fi stat ta’ taħwid kbir, li, kif qalet l-Assoċjazzjoni Maltija ta’ min Iħaddem f’nofs il-ġimgħa, jista’ jkollu impatti gravi li jwasslu għal kollass politiku u istituzzjonali. Il-Gvern Laburista ilu bi sħab ma dawk li jfittxu li jqaxxru il-kaxxa nazzjonali għal dawn l-aħħar seba’ snin. In-nuqqas ta’ Opposizzjoni Parlamentari li kapaċi taġixxi għamlitha iktar faċli mhux biss biex il-Labour jevita l-kontabilità imma fuq kollox biex ikompli jfittex opportunitjaiet ġodda  biex tkompli tinselaħ il-kaxxa ta’ Malta.

Konrad Mizzi u Joseph Muscat flimkien ma’ dawk li kienu jħufu madwarhom messhom ilhom li nqaflu Kordin: Konrad ta s-sehem tiegħu fil-ħolqien tal-opportunitajiet  mimlijin b’dellijiet ta’ korruzzjoni ta’ kull xorta u Joseph  li kontinwament ipproteġieh. Inkoraġġew stat Mafjuż. Dawk li jmexxu bil-kontijiet u kumpaniji fil-Panama b’dikjarazzjonijiet li ser ikunu f’posizzjoni li jiddepożitaw €5000 kuljum f’dawn il-kontijiet.

L-elezzjoni riċenti għat-tmexxija Laburista intilfet minn dawk li riedu jitfuhom ġewwa. Rebħet il-kampanja favur il-kontinwità: għax din kienet tagħti tama lil min kien jippreferi li tibqa’ l-protezzjoni.

L-investigazzjoni tan-NAO dwar il-kuntratti tal-Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) intalbet mill-Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM). Ir-rapport hu intitolat “An audit of matters relating to the concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare by Government. Part 1: A review of the tender process.” Il-fatt li dan hu biss l-ewwel parti jfisser li għad hemm ħafna iktar informazzjoni li qed tistenna li tkun magħrufa.

Ir-rapport ta’ 219 paġna huwa wieħed dettaljat. Il-punt bażiku hu li saħansitra qabel mal-Gvern ħareġ is-sejħa għall-proposti (Request for Proposals) kien diġa ftiehem mal- Vitals Global Healthcare permezz ta’ ftehim sigriet li l-Gvern m’għaddiex kopja tiegħu lill-Ufficcju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika (NAO). Imma mill-verifika ħareġ li l-Vitals Global Healthcare, mas-sottomissjonijiet bi tweġiba għas-sejħa għall-proposti, ippreżenta ittra mill-Bank of India bħala garanzija li kellu aċċess għall-finanzi meħtieġa għall-“Malta Healthcare Project”. Din l-ittra, imma, kellha data li kienet ħmistax-il ġurnata qabel ma ħarġet is-sejħa tal-Gvern Malti dwar il-proġett.  L-eżistenza ta’ dan id-dokument wasslet lill-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika (NAO) biex jikkonkludi li din kienet prova “of the VGH’s prior knowledge of the planned project and proof of collusion with Government, or its representatives.”

Din hi l-agħar kundanna possibli tal-proċess tax-xiri użat mill-Gvern u tat-tidwir mal-proċess li jitħaddem normalment taħt id-direzzjoni tad-Direttur tal-Kuntratti: responsabbiltà politika tal-Ministru tal-Finanzi Edward Scicluna.

Is-swaba’ kollha jippuntaw lejn Konrad Mizzi, issa konvenjentement imkeċċi mill-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista, u tal-protettur tiegħu Joseph Muscat. Imma Edward Scicluna ukoll għandu responsabbiltà politika għal dak li messu għamel u m’għamlux.

Wara kollox kien riċentement, nhar il-Ġimgħa  26 ta’ Ġunju 2020 li  Edward Scicluna, huwa u jirċievi ir-rapport annwali għall-2019 tal-Bord li jikkunsidra appelli minn deċiżjonijiet dwar tenders fis-settur pubbliku (Public Contracts Review Board – PCRB), emfasizza dwar il-ħtieġa li l-Ministeri differenti jeħtieġ li jieħdu ħsieb u jindukraw il-professjonisti fil-qasam finanzjarju tant meħtieġa biex jissorveljaw in-nefqa pubblika. Dakinnhar kien saħaq li l-pajjiż kien kommess għall-għola livelli ta’ kwalità.

Ir-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika dwar il-Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) malajr qallu x’kienu dawn l-ogħla livelli ta’ kwalità li għalihom għandu responsabbiltà politika Edward Scicluna!

Il-Prim Ministru Robert Abela ipprova jdaħħaq meta qal li r-rapport dwar il-Vitals Global Healthcare mill-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika kien prova ta’ kemm jaħdmu l-istituzzjonijiet.  Naħseb li l-iktar konklużjoni importanti li wieħed jista’ jislet mir-rapport hu li Joseph Muscat irnexxielu jittrasforma lill-Partit Laburista u l-Gvern immexxi minnu f’bejta tal-ħallelin: verżjoni moderna ta’ Ali Baba u l-erbgħin ħalliel. Il-fatt li Robert Abela ippreżenta ruħu bħala l-kandidat tal-kontinwità jfisser ħafna, għal min irid jifhem.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 12 ta’ Lulju 2020

Lock Them Up

This has been one of those weeks which former UK Labour leader Harold Wilson had in mind when he emphasised that a week is a long time in politics.

Two specific actions stick out. The first is the determination of PN Leader Adrian Delia to splinter the party, which he still leads, into insignificance. The second being the National Audit Office (NAO) report on the concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) by the Maltese Government. The NAO report concluded that there was collusive behaviour between government and Vitals Global Healthcare.

Both the Labour Party in government as well as the Nationalist Party in Opposition are in a state of a disorganised mess, which, as rightly pointed out by the Malta Employers Association mid-week, could easily lead to a political and institutional meltdown. The Labour Government has been in cahoots with those seeking to make a quick buck at the expense of the public purse for the past seven years. The absence of a Parliamentary Opposition worthy of the name has made it easier not just to avoid accountability but also to come back for more.

Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat together with their accomplices should have been behind bars long ago: the former for directing the plundering of the public purse, the latter (at least) for protecting him. They have given rise to a Mafia state. Those who ought to govern plunder openly thereby transmitting the clear message that “crime pays”.

The recent contest for the Labour leadership was lost by those campaigning under the unofficial slogan “lock them up”. The continuity campaign won as it was the safest bet ensuring “more of the same”, or at least, the possible protection of what has been plundered.

The NAO investigation and the resulting report on the award of the contracts to Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) was requested by the trade union Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM). The report is entitled “An audit of matters relating to the concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare by Government. Part 1: A review of the tender process.” The fact that this is just Part 1 indicates that there is much more waiting to be known.

The 219 page NAO report is quite detailed. The basic point raised is that even before it issued its “Request for Proposals” government had already agreed with Vitals Global Healthcare through a secret agreement which, for obvious reasons, it did not make available to the NAO. NAO however identified that VGH, in reply to the “Request for Proposals”, submitted a letter from the Bank of India as proof of access to finance for the “Malta Healthcare Project” which letter was dated fourteen days before the Request for Proposals was issued by the Maltese Government. The existence of this document led the NAO to conclude that this was definite evidence “of the VGH’s prior knowledge of the planned project and proof of collusion with Government, or its representatives.”

This is the most damning condemnation possible of the Government procurement process and the circumventing of the normal procurement process under the direction of the Director of Contracts: the political responsibility of Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.

Most fingers are pointing towards Konrad Mizzi, now conveniently dismissed from the Labour Parliamentary Group, and his protector Joseph Muscat. Edward Scicluna too, however, must shoulder political responsibility for acts of omission.

It was only as recent as Friday 26 June 2020 that Edward Scicluna, when receiving the 2019 Annual report of the Public Contracts Review Board (PCRB), emphasised the need for all government Ministries to nurture finance professionals to take adequate care of public expenditure. He had then emphasised that “the country is committed to the highest standards”.

The NAO in its VGH report has certified the real standards of the public procurement process under Edward Scicluna’s watch!

Prime Minister Robert Abela had the cheek to state that the NAO report is proof of the functioning of our institutions. Rather, I think the basic conclusion to be reached from the NAO VGH report is that Abela’s predecessor has successfully transformed the Labour Party into a modern version of Ali Baba and the forty thieves. The fact that Robert Abela is the “successful” continuity candidate speaks volumes.

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 12 July 2020

Il-bluff ta’ Yorgen

Kemm hu minnu li Yorgen Fenech kien jaf bid-data tal-elezzjoni ġenerali bikrija li Joseph Muscat sejjaħ f’Ġunju 2017 sa minn Diċembru 2016? Din mhiex informazzjoni li għandha naċċettaw mingħajr ma ngħarbluha. Hu faċli, wara li l-fatti jkunu seħħew, li tagħmel dikjarazzjonijiet ta’ din ix-xorta.

Din id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Yorgen Fenech dwar li kien jaf bid-data tal-elezzjoni bikrija saret waqt l-interrogazzjoni tiegħu u saret pubblika mill-Ispettur Kurt Zahra iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fil-Qorti. Milli ntqal mhux ċar kemm Zahra ta importanza lil din l-informazzjoni kif ukoll jekk din kienitx korraborata.

Dan il-bluff ta’ Yorgen, fil-fehma tiegħi, għandu skop wieħed u preċiż: li jsaħħaħ l-argument u “joħloq” il-provi li mhux hu kien il-moħħ wara l-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Li toqgħod tilgħab b’din l-informazzjoni hu ħafna agħar milli ixxerred il-gideb. Forsi Jason l-avukat jirrealizza dan u jiġbed widnejn Jason il-Membru Parlamentari.

Dan il-bluff ta’ Yorgen jinkwadra f’dak li jaħsbu uħud: li Kastilja kienet involuta fl-ippjanar tal-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia. Imma dan hu f’kunflitt ma’ informazzjoni oħra li kisbet l-investigazzjoni permezz tar-recordings ta’ Melvin Theuma: meta Yorgen Fenech, iffaċċjat b’elezzjoni ġenerali bikrija fil-bidu ta’ Mejju 2017 ta’ struzzjonijiet biex l-assassinju jkun sospiż. Sfortunatament uħud għandhom memorja qasira ħafna: illum jinsew dak li jkunu saru jafu fil-ġranet li għaddew!

Minkejja dan, naħseb li għadu kmieni biex naslu għal konklużjonijiet dwar min hu involut, apparti dawk li diġa qed iwieġbu għal għemilhom quddiem il-Qrati. Hu ovvju li Joseph Muscat ser jiċħad bil-qawwa kollha anke l-iktar konnessjoni remota mal-assassinju. M’għandniex nimpressjonaw ruħna għax f’dan l-istadju għadu kmieni u hu prudenti li ma neskludu xejn.

Yorgen kontinwament jitfa biċċiet żgħar ta’ informazzjoni biex iċaqlaq l-attenzjoni għal fuq ħaddieħor. Din il-ġimgħa kompla permezz tax-xhieda ta’ Keith Schembri. Schembri informa lill-Qorti kif sieħbu Yorgen ġieli qallu bil-krib ta’ Adrian Delia tal-PN biex jiffinanzjhom. Ma qal xejn imma dwar kemm ħareġ flus għall-Labour, apparti l-inbid Petrus lil Joseph, għax dak donnu hu ovvju u mistenni li fejn jidħol il-Labour idaħħal idu fil-but. Għaliex le, sakemm ikun fil-limiti ta’ dak permissibli?

Huwa u jwieġeb għall-mistoqsijiet tal-ispettur Keith Arnaud, Keith Schembri rrakkonta dak li qallu sieħbu Yorgen dwar kemm dejqu l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Adrian Delia għall-fondi. Il-flus, qal Schembri lill-Qorti, kien jiġborhom Pierre Portelli, sieħeb Delia, €20,000 kull darba. Kif kien mistenni kemm Delia kif ukoll Portelli b’mod immedjat u kategoriku ċaħdu dan kollu. Delia żied jiċħad li qatt talab finanzjament biex jipprova jixkana l-barra lil David Casa mis-siġġu fil-Parlament Ewropew. Dawn, imma, huma allegazzjonijiet li diġa konna smajnihom minn bnadi oħra.

Din hi informazzjoni li hi minnha jew inkellha hi informazzjoni żbaljata li d-duo Keith-Yorgen qed jisqu lill-inkjesta? Dan l-aħħar l-iskwadra tal-Pulizija dwar ir-reati ekonomiċi bħal donnha qamet mir-raqda u bdiet tinvestiga dan l-allegat finanzjament ta’ Delia minn Yorgen. Hu possibli li jkollna konklużjoni dwar x’daħal fis-sasla ta’ Delia malajr u dan minħabba li l-iskwadra dwar ir-reati ekonomiċi issa jidher li ser ikollha x’tagħmel għax ser teżamina xi rapporti li ħalliet jiġbru t-trab fil-passat qrib. Jista’ jkunu okkupati ftit fit-tul b’Konrad Mizzi li tul dan l-aħħar għalqu ftit għajnejhom mhux ħażin dwar dak li qed jingħad li għamel u ħawwad.

Konrad issa tkeċċa mill-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista wara li hu irrifjuta t-talba ta’ Robert Abela biex jirreżenja.

Din ma kienitx l-ewwel darba li fil-Partit Laburista kellhom diskussjoni taħraq dwar Konrad Mizzi. Imma din id-darba ma kienx hemm Joseph Muscat jiddefendieh.

Erba’ snin ilu Joseph Muscat kien irrifjuta li jkeċċi lil Konrad meta kien irriżulta li Konrad kien l-uniku Ministru fl-Unjoni Ewropeja li ssemma fil-Panama Papers. Minn dakinnhar l-iskandli assoċjati miegħu żdiedu biex issa hemm ukoll il-kaz tal-kummissjonijiet li tħallsu fuq it-tanker tal-gass li hemm Delimara, kif ukoll l-istejjer dwar il-kumpanija 17-Black. L-aħħar storja hi dwar l-imtieħen tar-riħ fil-Montenegro li bħala riżultat tagħha is-17-Black selħet madwar €5 miljuni profitti minn fuq dahar l-Enemalta, li għaliha kellu responsabbiltà politika Konrad Mizzi għal żmien twil.

B’dan it-tip ta’ transazzjonijiet il-kumpanija ta’ Yorgen Fenech 17-Black faċilment tilħaq il-miri tagħha biex tkun tista’ titrasferixxi €5000 kuljum fil-kumpaniji li n-Nexia BT waqqfet fil-Panama f’Marzu 2013.

Edward Scicluna, Ministru tal-Finanzi, qalilna li l-Gvern ma għandu l-ebda ħtija għal dan il-ħmieġ. Għandu żball: dawk kollha involuti ngħataw vot ta’ fiduċja wieħed wara l-ieħor. It-tort hu kollu kemm hu tal-Gvern!

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : il-Ħadd 28 ta’ Ġunju 2020

Yorgen’s bluff

Did Yorgen Fenech really know the date of the early election called in June 2017 by Joseph Muscat as far back as December 2016? I would take that information with a pinch of salt.

It is quite easy to bluff your way after the fact. Yorgen Fenech’s declaration on knowing the date for the early election was made to Inspector Kurt Zahra during his interrogation.

It is not clear whether Inspector Kurt Zahra simply noted Yorgen’s bluff or else whether he succeeded in corroborating this with additional information. Yorgen’s bluff, in my view, had a specific purpose: to drive home the point that he was not the mastermind behind the assassination.

Spinning this is at times worse than spreading lies. Maybe Jason the lawyer should caution Jason the MP about this.

Yorgen’s bluff fits like a glove into one of the theories making the rounds: that the OPM was involved in the planning and commissioning of the assassination. However it is in conflict with other bits of information fed into the investigation through the Theuma recordings: the plans in motion for the assassination were suspended by Yorgen as soon as the early election was called in early May 2017.

This signifies that actually he had no prior knowledge! Unfortunately, some have a very short memory span: they tend to forget today what was reported the day before yesterday!

Notwithstanding, it is too early to arrive at conclusions as who is or isn’t involved beyond those already arraigned. It is to be expected that Joseph Muscat categorically denies even the remotest of connections to the assassination.

We should not however be impressed into conclusions either way at such an early stage. I would definitely not exclude anything at this stage.

Yorgen’s dripping titbits of information continued through Keith Schembri’s testimony this week. Schembri recounted how his friend Yorgen described the manner in which he financed the PN. No information is forthcoming as to whether and how he financed the PL: presumably this is taken for granted. Replying to questions fielded by police inspector Keith Arnaud, Keith Schembri recounted how he had been informed by his friend Yorgen Fenech as to funding requests by Adrian Delia, Leader of the Opposition.

Delia’s sidekick, Pierre Portelli, the Court was told, used to collect the monies €20,000 at a time. As expected, Delia and Portelli immediately and categorically denied this. Delia further denied that he had requested funding to squeeze out David Casa from his MEP seat. We have however already heard of these allegations from various other sources. Are they true, or is it just incorrect information being slowly fed into the investigation by the Yorgen-Keith tandem? The Police Economic Crimes Unit has recently done a Rip van Winkle and is investigating the possibility of Yorgen funding Delia’s PN.

It may be possible to have a conclusion on Adrian Delia’s collections quite soon as the Police Economic Crimes Unit may now be in a hurry as they may soon have to recall their Konrad Mizzi archives to act upon reports which they were too busy to examine appropriately in the recent past.

Konrad has now been kicked out of the Parliamentary Group of the Labour Party after refusing to act on Robert Abela’s suggestions to resign. The discussion within Labour earlier this week was not the first with Konrad as the target. This time Joseph Muscat was however not around to defend him. Four years ago, Joseph Muscat had refused to dismiss Konrad Mizzi when it had resulted that Mizzi was the only member of Cabinet within the EU member states to have his name included in the Panama Papers. Since then we have had plenty of additions to the Panama Papers saga. These include commissions paid on the gas tanker anchored at Delimara as well as the 17-Black saga.

The latest addition is the Montenegro windfarm scandal as a result of which 17-Black made a windfall profit of around €5 million at the expense of Enemalta, for which Konrad Mizzi was politically responsible for a considerable length of time. With this type of transaction 17-Black could easily fulfil its objectives of transferring €5000 a day to the Panama companies setup by Nexia BT.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna has stated that government is not to blame. He is wrong: those in the spotlight were repeatedly given votes of confidence. Government has no one to blame but itself.

 

Published on the Malta Independent on Sunday: 28 June 2020