Skuża (komda) ta’ Kabinett kompliċi

Ħareġ rapport ieħor tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar il-kuntratt li l-Labour fil-Gvern ta’ lill-Vitals Global Health Care. Kuntratt li spiċċa għand Steward Health Care.

L-Awditur Ġenerali qed jirrapporta li l-Ministri,msieken iħossuhom li ġew żgwidati minn Konrad Mizzi, seħibhom fil-Kabinett!

Melal0Ministri mzazen, jilbilgħu kull ma jisimgħu?

Xi skuża komda biex tagħlaq għajnejk għall-korruzzjoni! Kollha flimkien iridu jerfgħu l-piz ta’ dan il-ħmieġ. Il-Kabinett kollu hu kompliċi. Il-Kabinett kellu l-poter li jwaqqaf dan il-ħmieg u ma għamel xejn. Anzi għalaq għajnejh.

Air Malta: vittma tal-klijenteliżmu

Nhar it-Tlieta, fil-Parlament, l-Opposizzjoni talbet dibattitu urġenti dwar il-futur tal-Air Malta. L-iSpeaker, korrettement ma laqax it-talba. Għax x’sens jagħmel li żżomm dibattitu ta’ din ix-xorta waqt li għadhom għaddejjin negozjati sensittivi, anke jekk dawn qed joqorbu lejn it-tmiem?

Iktar kien jagħmel sens kieku l-Opposizzjoni tablet li kellha tinżamm infurmata dwar fejn waslu in-negozjati. Dan ikun xieraq li jsir, fl-interess pubbliku u a bażi li l-informazzjoni tinżamm kunfidenzjali. Imma sfortunatament  l-Opposizzjoni iktar hi interessata fit-tejatrin!

Il-PN għandu ħafna x’joffri dwar dan kollu li għaddej, għax bħall-Labour, tul is-snin ta’ kontribut biex żviluppat il-qagħda attwali tal-Air Malta, waħda fejn ġiet żviluppata dipendenza fuq il-klijenteliżmu. It-tnejn li huma jġorru responsabbiltà għall-qagħda attwali.

L-istat attwali tal-Air Malta hu wieħed ta’ eżempju kif il-klijenteliżmu jkollu impatt fuq intrapriża pubblika li tul is-snin tmexxiet b’favoritiżmu politiku. It-tmexxija tal-Air Malta hi ukoll rifless ta’ kif tmexxa l-pajjiż. Il-klijenteliżmu qered lill-Air Malta, bħalma qiegħed jeqred lill-pajjiż.

Tul is-snin l-Air Malta kienet mgħobbija b’ħafna iktar impiegi milli kienet tiflaħ. Deċiżjonijiet ta’ tmexxija ittieħdu minn politiċi li f’xi waqtiet l-anqas rieda tajba ma kellhom!  Tiftakru, per eżempju lil Konrad Mizzi, ex-Ministru li fl- 2019 kien ħabbar li fl-aħħar l-Air Malta kienet għamlet profitt? Dakinnhar kulħadd kien jaf li din kienet gidba ħoxna!

Kellna wieħed ex-Direttur tal-Air Malta, li miet riċentement, li f’artiklu li kien kiteb xi snin ilu kien iddeskriva lill-Air Malta bħala l-baqra li l-politiċi kontinwament jaħilbu. Riżultat ta’ hekk in-numru ta’ impjegati spara l-fuq, b’mod partikolari fil-perjodi qrib ta’ xi elezzjoni ġenerali.

L-affarijiet ilhom ċari. Saru eżerċiżżji ta’ ristrutturar u ħarġu numru ta’ skemi ta’ irtirar kmieni. Intefqu flejjes kbar, imma l- Air Malta xorta baqgħet f’diffikultà minkejja l-fondi pubbliċi li xorbot. Hu għal din ir-raġuni li l-Kummissjoni Ewropeja qed tirreżisti li għal darba oħra jkun hemm għajnuna minn fondi pubbliċi: l-Air Malta kellha kemm-il darba għajnuna biex tirkupra, imma kull darba reġgħet għal li kienet: ħliet dak li rċeviet!

Il-wasla tal-linji tal-ajru low cost għamlu s-sitwazzjoni ħafna iktar diffiċli għall-Air Malta għax dawn huma mibnija fuq mudell ekonomiku li l-Air Malta, frott tal-qagħda tagħha, ftit setgħet tikkompeti miegħu.  Mgħobbija kif kienet bl-spejjes, hemm limitu  kemm l-Air Malta setgħet tiċċaqlaq f’suq dejjem iktar kompetittiv.

L-istrateġija li fassal il-Ministru tal-Finanzi Clyde Caruana lejlet l-elezzjoni tal- 2022 ġiet tard wisq. Il-marda kienet daħlet il-ġewwa wisq.

Il-klijenteliżmu flimkien mal-għajununa minn fondi pubbliċi, lill-Air Malta kissruha. Kien għaldaqstant inevitabbli li illum jew għada l-Air Malta kellha tiffaċċja r-realtà.  L-affarijiet ilhom ċari sa mill-2004 meta Malta issieħbet fl-Unjoni Ewropeja: l-ebda pajjiż ma jista’ juża fondi pubbliċi biex joħnoq il-kompetittività. Il-fondi pubbliċi bħala għajnuna lill-intrapriża jistgħu jintużaw biss f’ċirkustanzi eċċezzjonali u ċertament mhux b’mod repetut. L-Air Malta kellha kważi 20 sena ċans, li ħliethom. Xorbot il-fondi pubbliċi bla ma tat riżultati. 20 sena li tulhom kien hemm Gvern immexxi mill-PN u ieħor immexxi mill-Labour!

Minn strateġiji, kieku, l-Air Malta qatt ma kienet nieqsa!  Sfortunatament qatt ma kien hemm rieda biex ikun indirizzat in-nuqqas fundamentali tal-kumpanija, l-kontroll politiku. L-Air Malta għexet kontinwament bil-kontroll politiku li spiċċa qeridha darba għal dejjem. Issa l-qrid li għaddej, kollu għal xejn, tard wisq!

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 23 t’April 2023

Air Malta: victim of clientelism

On Tuesday the Opposition in Parliament requested an urgent debate on the future of Air Malta. The Speaker rightly refused the request. What sense does it make to have such a public debate when sensitive negotiations are still ongoing, even though it is known that they are approaching the end?

The Opposition should, in my view, have insisted to be kept in the loop, to be kept informed continuously of developments, as to the current state of play of the negotiations. This should have been done in the public interest and on the basis of confidentiality. Unfortunately, the Opposition prefers theatrics!

The PN has much to offer on the matter, in view of the fact that together with Labour, it has, over the years, contributed substantially to the current state of Air Malta, ensuring its dependency on clientelism. Both PN and Labour shoulder responsibility for the current state of affairs.

Air Malta’s current state is a textbook case of the impacts of clientelism on a state enterprise which is, or rather, has been managed on the basis of political favouritism throughout the years. The administration of Air Malta is also a reflection of the manner in which the country is managed. Clientelism has ruined Air Malta just as it is ruining the whole country.

Over the years Air Malta engaged employees much more than it required. Most administrative decisions were taken by holders of political office who at times even lacked good faith. Don’t you remember, for example, the declarations by disgraced Minister Konrad Mizzi in 2019 that Air Malta had at last turned a profit, when it was pretty obvious to one and all that he was lying through his teeth? Mizzi was Minister for Tourism as well as in charge of the restructuring of Air Malta. Unfortunately, as we well know today, fraud permeated practically all areas for which Mizzi was politically responsible over the years!

A former Air Malta Director, recently deceased, had described Air Malta as the politicians’ milch cow in an article he penned some years ago. The number of Air Malta employees spiralled out of control in the run-up to most general elections.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Various restructuring exercises and early retirement schemes have been implemented at considerable expense, only for Air Malta to remain in considerable difficulties notwithstanding the massive state aid utilised in the process. This is the basic reason as to why the European Commission is reluctant to approve further use of state aid for Air Malta.

The advent of low-cost flights over the years made matters more difficult for Air Malta. Low-cost fares are dependent on ensuring the minimisation of costs throughout the airline’s operations. As a result of being overloaded with excess labour, accumulated as electoral favours, Air Malta could never compete with low-cost airlines!

The four-year strategy announced by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana on the eve of the 2022 general election was too little, too late. At that point Air Malta was already on its knees.

Clientelism buttressed by state aid continuously made matters worse for Air Malta. The moment that we joined the EU it was only a matter of time as to when we had to face the music.

There was ample time, almost twenty years, to rectify matters. One Board of Directors after the other ignored the writing on the wall until it was too late. Twenty wasted years spanning PN and Labour led governments!

Air Malta never lacked strategies. It just lacked one crucial target: the political will to be cut loose from political control. Clientelism was its lifeblood for so long. It was also its death certificate.

It is now useless to argue further as it is clear that Air Malta will soon be no more.

Just send a thank you note to Castille Place: addressed to the Cabinet, for the attention of past and present members.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 23 April 2023

Il-legat ta’ Arvid Pardo: niskopru mill-ġdid il-vokazzjoni marittima

“Aħna għandna interess naturali u vitali fil-baħar ta’ madwarna li permezz tiegħu ngħixu u nieħdu n-nifs.” Dan hu kliem Arvid Pardo, dakinnhar ambaxxatur ta’ Malta għall-Ġnus Magħquda, kliem li qal meta kien qed jindirizza  l-Assemblea Ġenerali fuq il-proposta ta’ Malta dwar qiegħ il-baħar u r-rizorsi tiegħu bħala l-wirt komuni tal-umanità.

Il-baħar hu ħajjitna, iżda ftit li xejn jingħata prominenza fil-prijoritajiet politiċi tal-pajjiż. Bħala gżira stat,   il-baħar u dak kollu marbut miegħu, għandu jkun fuq nett fl-aġenda politika tal-pajjiż.  Hu ghalhekk ta’ tħassib li lokalment ma ntqal prattikament xejn mill-Gvern dwar trattat fuq l-ibħra internazzjonali konkluż iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa fil-qafas tal-istrutturi tal-Ġuns Magħquda. Ftehim li hu ta’ importanza storika u riżultat ta’ negozjati li ilhom sejrin sa mill-2004.  Dan hu ftehim li hu mibni fuq il-legat tal-Konvenzjoni tal-Ġnus Magħquda dwar il-Baħar li dwarha, permezz ta’ Arvid Pardo, Malta tat sehem kruċjali.

Malta teħtieġ li tiskopri mill-ġdid il-vokazzjoni marittima tagħha u li tkun fuq quddiem nett f’dawn l-inizjattivi fid-dibattitu marittimu internazzjonali. Biex inkunu proattivi jeħtieġilna li jkollna Ministeru iffukat fuq il-politika Marittima li jiġbor taħt saqaf wieħed il-politika marittima kollha ta’ relevanza għall-gżejjer Maltin: mill-ekonomija l-blu, is-sajd u l-akwakultura għall-ħarsien ta’ zoni marittimi estensivi anke fl-ibħra internazzjinali, il-ħarsien aħjar tal-kosta kif ukoll li nimplimentaw sewwa l-liġi dwar id-Dimanju Pubbliku bla dewmien u dan biex ikun assigurat l-aċċess pubbliku għall-kosta, u b’hekk, fuq perjodu ta’ żmien tkun ikkontrollata l-kummerċjalizzazzjoni tal-kosta li ilha sejra s-snin.

Darba kellna Segretarjat Parlamentari għall-Affarijiet Marittimi. Illum il-ġurnata l-politika marittima hi linja waħda fil-lista ta’ responsabbiltajiet tal-Kabinett taħt il-Ministeru tat-Trasport. Fir-realtà, imma, l-politika marittima hi frammentata  u dwarha hemm responsabbiltajiet f’diversi Ministeri.  Fil-prattika dan ifisser li ma hemm ħadd li għandu responsabbiltà politika diretta u konsegwenza ta’ hekk il-koordinazzjoni politika f’dan il-qasam hi waħda limitat ħafna.  Din hi ħasra għax dan hu qasam li għandu ħafna potenzjal li jkun ta’ ġid għall-pajjiż.

It-trattat il-ġdid ser ifittex li jindirizza l-ħarsien tas-saħħa tal-oċejani mhux biss fil-present, imma iktar importanti fuq medda ta’ żmien: dan hu il-wirt li ser inħallu warajna lill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri.   Kif ġie emfasizzat mill-kelliemi għas-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Ġnus Magħquda Antonio Guterres, dan it-trattat il-ġdid ser ifittex li jindirizza il-kriżi li qed tiffaċċja id-dinja fuq tlett fronti: it-tibdil fil-klima, it-telfien tal-bijodiversità u t-tniġġiż.

In-negozjati dwar it-trattat intemmu fil-lejl bejn l-4 u l-5 ta’ Marzu. Ser iservi biex titwettaq il-wegħda miftehma fil-konklużjonijiet  tal-Konferenza dwar il-Bijodiversità li saret f’Montreal f’Diċembru li għadda u li hi magħrufa bħala  30×30.   Din hi wegħda bl-iskop li tistabilixi fuq sisien legal sodi il-mira ta’ protezzjoni ta’ terz tal-bijodiversità fuq l-art u l-baħar u dan sas-sena 2030. In-negozjati dwar it-trattat fasslu l-qafas legali meħtieġ biex tkun tista’ tibda t-triq twila ħalli jkunu implimentati l-wegħdiet, il-konklużjonijiet u inizjattivi ta’ Montreal.

L-ibħra internazzjonali jibdew fejn jispiċċaw iż-żoni ekonomiċi esklussivi tal-pajjiżi differenti, ġeneralment madwar 200 mil nawtiku (390 km) mill-kosta. Dawn l-ibħra jammontaw għal 60 fil-mija tal-oċejani globali u ma huma tal-ebda pajjiż, u allura huma ta’ kulħadd! Dawn l-ibħra huma taħt theddida kontinwa ta’ ħsara mill-ħidma akkumulata tal-bniedem tul is-snin. Għalhekk il-ħtieġa li l-komunità internazzjonali taġixxi illum qabel għada.

Meta it-trattat jidħol fis-seħħ, forsi, inkunu pass eqreb lejn il-ħolqien ta’ zoni ta’ protezzjoni marittima fl-ibħra internazzjonali. Din, meta isseħħ tkun kisba storika kbira.

Arvid Pardo jkun kburi li wasalna sa hawn. L-aħjar mod kif nikkommemorawh ikun kull darba li nkunu kapaċi nidħlu għar-responsabbiltajiet internazzjonali tagħna dwar l-ibħra. Jeħtieġilna li niftakru kontinwament li bħala gżira, il-baħar hu ħajjitna: il-baħar hu dak li għamilna dak li aħna illum.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 13 ta’ Marzu 2023

Arvid Pardo’s legacy: rediscovering a maritime vocation

“We are naturally vitally interested in the sea which surrounds us and through which we live and breathe.” This was stated by Arvid Pardo then Malta’s UN Ambassador when addressing the United Nations General Assembly in November 1967 on Malta’s seminal proposal on the seabed and its resources as the common heritage of mankind.

The sea is our lifeline, yet it does not feature prominently in our policy priorities. As an island state, all issues relative to the sea should be at the very top of the country’s political agenda. It is with regret therefore that very little was said locally by government on the High Seas Treaty concluded within the UN framework earlier this week. This agreement, of crucial importance, is the culmination of negotiations which started in 2004 and builds on the legacy of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in respect of which Malta had a pivotal role through Ambassador Arvid Pardo.

Malta needs to rediscover its maritime vocation and be at the forefront of such international maritime initiatives and debate. In order to be proactive, we need a focused Ministry for Maritime Affairs which groups under one political head all maritime politics of relevance to the Maltese islands: ranging from the blue economy, fisheries and aquaculture to marine protected areas, the protection of coastal areas as well as ensuring that the Public Domain Act is implemented the soonest to ensure public access all along the coast and over time to reverse the commercialisation of the coast which has been going on for ages.

Once upon a time we had a Parliamentary Secretariat for Maritime Affairs. Nowadays maritime policy is a footnote to the list of Cabinet responsibilities, listed under the Ministry for Transport,  but in reality, it is fragmented over a multitude of Ministries. In practice this means that direct political responsibility and policy coordination in maritime policy is rather limited. This is a pity as it is a policy area which has so much potential!

The new treaty seeks to counter the destructive trends which is faced by the health of the oceans, not just at present, but also, more importantly, for generations to come. As emphasised by the spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the new treaty seeks to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

The treaty, concluded during the night between the 4 and 5 March, is crucial for implementing what is known as the 30×30 pledge of the Montreal Biodiversity Conference held last December. This is intended to protect a third of the biodiversity on land and at sea by the year 2030. This treaty establishes the legal framework required to start the long road towards implementation of the Montreal pledges, conclusions and initiatives.

The high seas begin where the exclusive economic zone of the different countries end, generally some 200 nautical miles (390 km) from the coastline. Comprising more than 60 percent of the world’s oceans they belong to no particular country. They are however under continuous threat from anthropogenic activity.

When the treaty enters into force, maybe, we will be a step closer to creating marine protected areas in international waters. That would be a historic achievement.

Arvid Pardo would be proud of such a moment. The best way of honouring his memory would be if we shoulder our international responsibilities, continuously protecting the marine environment which has contributed so much to what we are.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 12 March 2023

Profitti għas-settur privat, riskji u kontijiet għall Gvern!

Nhar it-Tnejn li għadda l-Parlament iddiskuta s-sentenza mogħtija mill-Imħallef Francesco Depasquale fuq il-konċessjoni dwar tlett isptarijiet tal-Gvern lill-Vitals Global Healthcare liema konċessjoni eventwalment għaddiet għand Steward Health Care. Id-deċiżjoni li ngħatat hi kontra l-Prim Ministru bħala kap tal-Eżekuttiv, kif ukoll kontra l-Avukat Ġenerali, kumpaniji diversi mill-grupp kummerċjali ta’ Steward Health Care u xi korpi pubbliċi u r-rappresentanti tagħhom.

Din hi kawża li ppreżenta Adrian Delia meta kien għadu Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Il-parti kbira tad-diskussjoni parlamentari dwar din is-sentenza iffukat fuq nuqqas ta’ governanza tajba, dwar tmexija ħażina u dwar frodi flimkien mal- korruzzjoni, assoċjati ma’ din il-konċessjoni sa mit-tnissil tagħha.

Dan kollu joħroġ ċar mis-sentenza tal-Qorti tal-ġimgħa l-oħra. Imma għal min kien attent, dan kien diġa jidher ċar fiż-żewġ rapporti dwar din il-konċessjoni tal-isptarijiet, rapporti li ħareġ l-Awditur Ġenerali f’Lulju 2020 u f’Diċembru 2021. Is-sentenza tal-Qorti qed issaħħaħ u tirrinforza l-konklużjonijiet li wasal għalihom l-Awditur Ġenerali.

Niftakru li f’Lulju 2020 l-Awditur Ġenerali kien ippubblika l-ewwel rapport tiegħu, rapport li hu mifrux fuq iktar minn 200 paġna u li kien jiffoka fuq il-proċess tal-offerti għall-konċessjoni dwar l-isptarijiet. Dan kien supplimentat b’addendum ta’ 20 paġna oħra. Iktar tard f’Diċembru 2021 l-Awditur Ġenerali kien ippubblika it-tieni rapport tiegħu b’467 paġna, li kien jiffoka fuq il-qafas kuntrattwali tal-konċessjoni u kif dan ġie mħaddem.

L-Awditur Ġenerali kien ikkonkluda fir-rapporti tiegħu li l-preparazzjoni li wettaq il-Gvern in konnessjoni mal-konċessjoni kienet waħda superfiċjali, u li meta ħareġ is-sejħa għall-offerti kien fil-fatt diġa ftiehem u fuq kollox lill-Kabinett bosta drabi kien iħallieh fil-għama. Anke l-Ministru tal-Finanzi kien imwarrab, qiesu kien qiegħed hemm għalxejn!

Punt interessati li isemmi l-Awditur Ġenerali hu li Vitals Global Healthcare ippreżentaw garanzija bankarja mill-Bank of India li kienet datata 13 ta’ Marzu 2015, ħmistax-il ġurnata qabel ma fil-fatt ħarġet is-sejħa għall-offerti. Dan sar għax il-ftehim kien diġa sar u s-sejħa li ħarġet għall-offerti kienet waħda finta! A bażi ta’ dan, l-Awditur Ġenerali kien tal-fehma li Vitals Global Healthcare kellhom ikunu skwalifikati milli jippartiċipaw fis-sejħa għall-offert għall-konċessjoni dwar l-isptarijiet.

Dan hu kollu importanti u separatament wassal għal konklużjonijiet li issa wasal għalihom ukoll l-Imħallef Depasquale fis-sentenza li qed nitkellmu dwarha. Ifisser li Gvern serju, kieku ried, seta jaġixxi. Kellu biżżejjed informazzjoni biex jibgħat lil Steward Health Care isaqqu. Imma b’mod ċar dan ma setax jagħmlu għax il-Gvern kien parti integrali mill-ħadma li saret.

Imma hemm affarijiet oħra, daqstant importanti, ta’ natura fundamentali u li huma presentment skartati mid-diskussjoni pubblika. Kemm jagħmel sens li qasam sensittiv bħas-saħħa ikollu parti sostanzjali minnu taħt kontroll kważi assolut tas-settur privat. Jagħmel sens il-Public-Private Partnership fil-qasam tas-saħħa?

Din hi mistoqsija li hi kompletament skartata fid-dibattitu pubbliku li sar u li għadu għaddej. Hi mistoqsija fundamentali li mit-tweġiba għaliha tista’ toħroġ il-fasla ta’ kif is-settur privat jista’ jikkontribwixxi u jipparteċipa mingħajr ma jikkontrolla: kif kulħadd jitħallas ta’ xogħolu imma li ħadd ma jitħalla jberbaq il-ġid tal-pajjiż.

L-esperjenza li għandna f’dan il-pajjiz dwar l-involviment tas-settur privat f’dawn it-tip ta’ proġetti hi waħda ta’ problemi kbar: problema ta’ deċiżjonijiet ħziena u ta’ abbuż ta’ poter, kif ukoll suspetti kbar ta’ frodi u korruzzjoni. Dan b’referenza kemm għal din il-konċessjoni tal-isptarijiet, il-progett tal-enerġija f’Delimara u anke fil-progett ta’ San Vinċenz f’Ħal-Luqa. F’kull kaz hemm rapporti voluminużi tal-Awditur Ġenerali li jispjegaw dettaljatatment it-taħwid li ġie iġġenerat mill-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Laburista wara l-2013.

Huwa mudell ekonomiku fallut li jarmi l-assi pubbliċi. Mudell li intuża ukoll f’ċirkustanzi oħra bħall-bejgħ tal-art f’Pembroke bir-ribass biex ikun iffavoreġġat il-proġett spekulattiv tal-Grupp dB.  Il-profitti li jirriżultaw mill-ispekulazzjoni, sfortunatament għandhom prijorità fuq il-ġid komuni għal dan il-Gvern.

Hu ċar li jekk irridu l-involviment tas-settur privat fi proġetti pubbliċi, dan l-involviment għandu jkun regolat sewwa u din ir-regolamentazzjoni għandha tkun infurzat biex tkun assigurata governanza tajba mill-bidu nett, mill-ewwel ideat sat-twettieq ta’ proġetti ta’ din ix-xorta.  S’issa kollox qiegħed jitħalla jimxi għal riħu bil-konsegwenzi li qed naraw b’għajnejna u li qed insiru nafu bihom ftit ftit. Nuqqas ta’ regoli ċari li jkunu infurzati jwassal inevitabilment għal taħwid, għal frodi u għal korruzzjoni. Riżultat ta’ hekk ibati l-pajjiz kollu.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 5 ta’ Marzu 2023

Private profits public risks

On Monday Parliament discussed the decision delivered in Court by Judge Francesco Depasquale relative to the Government hospital concession awarded to Vitals Global Healthcare, eventually substituted by Steward Health Care. The decision delivered is against the Prime Minister as head of the Executive, as well as the Attorney General, various companies in the Steward Health Care Group and a number of quangos and their representatives.

This Court Case was presented by Adrian Delia when he was Leader of the Opposition. The major part of the Parliamentary discussion has focused on bad governance, fraud and corruption which were all associated with the hospital concession process since its inception.

All this emanates from the Court decision delivered last week. However, those who observe the political scene attentively would be undoubtedly aware that all this was already evident in two reports published by the Auditor General on this hospital concession: the first one published in July 2020 and the second one in December 2021. The Court’s decision, in fact, reinforces the Auditor General’s conclusions.

We do clearly remember that in July 2020 the Auditor General had published a first report running into over 200 pages focusing on the hospital concession tendering process. This was followed by an addendum and later, in December 2021 the Auditor General published a second report, 467 pages long, which reviewed the contractual framework of the hospital concession.

In his reports the Auditor General concluded that the preparatory work carried out by the public sector in relation to the hospital concession was very superficial. The Auditor General’s reports also identified that even before the request for proposals was published Government had already concluded on awarding Vitals Global Healthcare the hospitals concession! Cabinet and even the Finance Minister were generally kept in the dark. 

The Auditor General, in his investigations, found a bank guarantee presented by Vitals Global Healthcare. It was issued by the Bank of India on the 13 March 2015, a fortnight before the request for proposals was even published. This clearly established that the agreement was already sealed even before the public request for proposals had been published. The Auditor General had clearly identified this as a definite proof of collusion. On this basis, the Auditor General had in fact expressed a strongly worded opinion that Vitals Global Healthcare should have been disqualified from participating in the request for proposals relative to the hospitals’ concession.

All this is of paramount importance. Way back in 2020/21 it had led to the Auditor General conclusions which have now been confirmed by Mr Justice Depasquale in the decision delivered last week. This means that government should and could have acted then: it had sufficient information to send Steward Health Care packing. However very clearly it could not act as it was part and parcel of the deceit at hand.

There are however further matters, just as important as the above, which the current debate unfortunately avoids. We should ask: does it make sense for a sector as sensitive as health to be controlled in this manner by the private sector? Does a public-private partnership in the health sector make sense?

These questions are being ignored in the public debate currently at hand. These questions are of a fundamental nature as the replies thereto could identify the manner as to how the private sector can be involved without having a controlling interest and how all those involved can be fairly remunerated without squandering public funds.

The local accumulated experience resulting from this kind of projects is very problematic: we are continuously faced with incorrect decisions, abusive decision-taking as well as substantial suspicions of fraud and corruption. This is being stated with reference not just to this hospital concession but also to the energy deal at the Delimara Power Station and the project at the Luqa elderly residence: St Vincent de Paul. In each case the Auditor General has produced voluminous reports detailing the mayhem generated by the post 2013 Labour government.

It is a failed economic model which discounts public goods. It has also been applied in other sectors: a case in point being the Pembroke land “sold” at throwaway prices in favour of the speculative project of the dB Group. Speculative profit is unfortunately being continuously prioritised over the common good by the present government.

It is crystal clear that if we want the private sector involved in public projects its involvement must be regulated, and the said regulatory regime must be adequately enforced in order to ensure good governance throughout, from inception right through to implementation. So far it is a free for all: the consequences are for all to see.  A lack of clear rules and their enforcement inevitably leads to confusion, fraud and corruption. The whole country, as a result, has to pay the consequences.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 5 March 2023

Fil-Parlament il-lejla: x’faqar!

Smajtuh id-dibattitu tal-lejla fil-Parlament dwar is-sentenza tal-Qorti tal-ġimgħa l-oħra?

X’faqar! X’mistħija ta’ Parlament!

Il-pajjiż jixraqlu ferm aħjar minn hekk!

It-taħwida hi kbira: flok “world class medical system” għandna kaz ta’ “world class fraud” li nħolqot minn Vitals Global Healthcare u Steward Health Care u mill-Gvern Laburista.

S’issa insterqu €300 miljun!

Għadu kmieni biex wieħed jgħid x’ser jiġri u dan sakemm jinqata’ l-appell, jekk ikun hemm.

Jinħtieġu tweġibiet diversi.

Meta ser jibdew l-investigazzjonijiet mill-Pulizija fil-konfront ta’ dawk involuti? Il-Pulizija sfortunatament mhemmx ħosshom! Fejn hu l-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija Angelo Gafà?

Robert Abela, Konrad Mizzi, Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona, Keith Schembri u Joseph Muscat: meta ser jintalbu jwieġbu ta’ egħmilhom, jew tan-nuqqas tiegħu?

Il-membri tal-Kabinett immexxi minn Joseph Muscat: ħadd ma jaf xejn. Wieħed iwaħħal fl-ieħor. Kellna Ministru tal-Finanzi (Edward Scicluna) li ma kienx jaf x’inhu jigri fil-Ministeru tieghu!

Chris Fearne min-naħa l-oħra, ħlief għal xi botta, kien kawta ħafna! Hu imħasseb dwar x’inhu ġej!

Il-parti l-kbira tal-membri tal-Kabinett ta’ Joseph Muscat baqgħu fommhom magħluq. Ħlief Varist Bartolo, li bħas-soltu jibqa’ jdur mal-lewża.

Hemm responsabbiltà politika kbira. Hemm ukoll responsabbiltajiet kriminali. Min ser iwieġeb? S’issa ħadd ma wieġeb.

Robert Abela kien skomdu ħafna huwa u jipprova jwieġeb waqt is-seduta Parlamentari tal-lejla. Inevitabilment ħarab mis-sustanza tal-argument. Sa ċertu punt wieħed dan jifhmu għax il-konsegwenzi mhumiex żgħar u għandu bżonn iż-żmien.

Għad nispiċċaw li jkollna ninvestgaw kull kuntratt li ngħata minn dan il-Gvern. Ħadma, waħda wara l-oħra.

Din hi storja li għad trid tinkiteb fid-dettall. Fl-aħħar, kull min hu responsabbli jrid iħallas ta’ egħmilu.

Mill-kċina ta’ Joseph

Issa għandna deċiżjoni tal-Qorti li tħassar il-ftehim li bih sptarijiet għaddew għand ta’ Vitals Global Healtcare u wara għand Steward Health Care.

Tinten l-istorja, qaltilna l-Qorti. Konna ilna ngħiduh dan u ma hi tal-ebda konsolazzjoni li l-Qorti qablet magħna.

Joseph qed jgħidilna li ma hemm xejn li jħammarlu wiċċu. Id-deċiżjonijiet ħadhom il-Kabinett, qalilna. Ma ħadhomx waħdu!

Mhux hekk qalu sħabu, iżda! Fearne jidher sodisfatt bid-deċiżjoni. Ilu jgħid li d-deċiżjonijiet ittiehdu wara dahru. Tiftakru meta Edward Scicluna tkellem dwar il-Kitchen Cabinet ta’ Joseph. Tiftakru kemm kien ilmenta li l-Gvern ta’ Joseph kien jitmexxa mill-Kitchen Cabinet? Jiġifieri mill-klikka ta’ dawk ta’ madwaru?

Anke Varist dalgħodu ħareġ jattakka dan l-argument ta’ Joseph! Il-Kabinett kien imwarrab, qal Varist! Dam jaħsibha ftit biex jitkellem!

It-taħwid li dwaru iddeċidiet il-Qorti sar fil-kċina ta’ Joseph. Fil-Kitchen Cabinet. U bħal dejjem, min ħawwad fil-borma jkun jaf x’fiha, anke jekk mir-riħa jkollna idea tajba x’kien hemm! Safejn hu magħruf, fil-kċina Joseph ma kienx ikun waħdu. Miegħu kien ikollu lil Keith il-Kasco Schembri, Konrad Mizzi u oħrajn. Xi darba insiru nafu l-ismijiet kollha.

Hemm bżonn tindifa tajba. Sfortunatament Anġlu Gafà mhux kapaċi jagħmilha. Għalhekk inħatar!

Telefonata mill-Ministeru

Il-biċċa qerq dwar il-liċenzji tas-sewqan li nkixfet fil-Qorti iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa hi inkwetanti ħafna. Dan qed ngħidu in vista tal-informazzjoni sensittiva li dwarha ingħatat biss indikazzjoni żgħira fix-xhieda li instemgħet s’issa fil-Qorti. Id-dettalji dwar dan kollu li jikkonċerna korruzzjoni fl-eżamijiet tejoretiċi dwar is-sewqan, għadhom mhux magħrufa.

S’issa ġew imħarrka tlett irġiel:  wieħed mid-Diretturi u żewġ uffiċjali ta’ Trasport Malta, li wieħed minnhom kien elett bħala kunsillier fil-Kunsill Lokali ta’ Ħaż- Żebbuġ f’isem il-Partit Laburista.  

Kien żvelat fil-Qorti li l-akkużati, waqt li kienu interrogati, iġġustifikaw l-azzjonijiet tagħhom billi emfasizzaw li kienu soġġetti għal pressjoni politika kontinwa.  L-uffiċjal anżjan fost dawk akkużati ilmenta li ħassu taħt pressjoni kbira minħabba t-telefonati kontinwi minn diversi Ministeri.

Fix-xhieda mogħtija s’issa l-pulizija żvelat li f’mobile li ġabru sabu “chats diversi ma’ persuni b’rabta ma’ partit politiku”. Ma hemm l-ebda informazzjoni uffiċjali dwar l-identità ta’ dan il-partit politiku. L-unika ħaġa li nista’ ngħid hi li dan il-partit definittivament mhux l- ADPD!

Xi ħadd li kellu aċċess għall-informazzjoni fuq il-mobile maqbud imma, fuq il-media soċjali, indirettament żvela l-għala l-pulizija hi kawta u mhux tiżvela ismijiet ta’ dawk involuti. Jidher li rrealizzaw li l-ismijiet, hekk kif ikunu żvelati jistgħu joħolqu terrimot politiku li bħalu qatt ma rajna.  Skont l-informazzjoni mhux uffiċjali li qed tiċċirkola b’mod elettroniku jidher li ġew identifikati bħala li ħadu sehem f’din il-biċċa qerq taħt investigazzjoni 4 membri attwali tal-Kabinett flimkien ma tnejn oħra li m’għadhomx fil-Kabinett.  Mid-dehra l-parti l-kbira ta’ dawk inkarigati mis-Segretarjat tal-Ministri kif ukoll numru ta’  Membri Parlamentari huma mdeffsa ukoll.

Fl-investigazzjonijiet tagħhom il-Pulizija jidher li f’uffiċċju ta’wieħed mill-akkużati sabu żewġ djarji b’informazzjoni sostanzjali li kienet tikkonsisti f’ismijiet, numri tal-karta tal-identità kif ukoll id-dati ta’ meta dawk li gawdew mill-irregolaritajiet investigati qagħdu għall-eżami tejoretiku għall-liċenzja tas-sewqan.

Wieħed mill-akkużati qed jiddefendieħ il-kelliemi tal-Opposizzjoni dwar l-Intern, l-Avukat  Dr Joe Giglio, avukat bi prattika estensiva fil-qasam tal-liġi kriminali.  Mhux etika li membri parlamentari jinvolvu ruħhom f’dawn il-każijiet. Id-difiża ta’ persuni akkużati bl-involviment fil-korruzzjoni mhiex kompatibbli mal-ħidma politika kontra l-istess korruzzjoni. Ma jistax ikun kredibbli jekk jipprova jkollu saqajh fuq iż-żewġ naħat.  Dan qed ixellef sewwa l-kredibilità politika tiegħu. Jidher li mill-kaz tal-Bank Pilatus ma’ tgħallem xejn!

Minn din l-istorja kollha  hemm żewġ punti ta’ importanza.

Għalfejn il-Pulizija joqgħodu lura milli jagħtu informazzjoni fejn ikun hemm il-politiċi involuti? Il-kliem nieqes miċ-ċarezza li intuża mill-Ispettur tal-Pulizija fil-Qorti din il-ġimgħa jwassal dan il-messaġġ. Ma jkunx ferm iktar għaqli li min qiegħed hemm biex iħares il-liġi ma jibqgħax jimxi bl-ingwanti tal-ħarir mal-membri tal-Kabinett?

Imbagħad xi ngħidu għall-irbit li għandhom il-membri parlamentari mal-professjoni jew xogħol tagħhom? Meta ser jinħallu minn dan l-irbit li jxekkilhom fil-qadi ta’ dmirijiethom? Kif propost repetutament minn ADPD fid-diversi manifesti elettorali, għandna bżonn  Parlament li mill-iktar fis ikun magħmul minn membri li jiddedikaw ħinhom kollu għall-ħidma Parlamentari. Huwa b’dan il-mod biss li l-Parlament jista’ jkun kredibbli u possibilment effettiv.

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 4 ta’ Settembru 2022