Il-kontabilità ……….. taħt l-effett tal-loppju

Il-Kummisarju tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar fl-uffiċċju ta’ l-Ombudsman, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ikkonkluda li mhu affari ta’ ħadd jekk membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jattendux jew le l-laqgħat tal-Bord. Dik biċċa tagħhom: hi responsabbiltà tagħhom dwar kif jaġixxu biex iwettqu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom. Meta għaldaqstant, Jacqueline Gili kienet pprovduta bis-servizz ta’ ajruplan privat biex ikun iffaċilitat li hi tattendi għal-laqgħa tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li fiha kienet diskussa u approvata l-monstrosità tal-dB Group f’Pembroke kien hemm indħil mhux permissibli fil-proċeduri tal-istess awtorità.

Is-Sur Johann Buttigieg, Chairman Eżekuttiv tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, ikkonferma pubblikament li d-deċiżjoni li jġib lil Jacqueline Gili bil-ajruplan privat minn Catania, u jeħodha lura Catania biex tkompli tgawdi l-btala mal-familja tagħha, kienet deċiżjoni tiegħu. F’pajjiż fejn il-governanza tajba hi pprattikata, mhux ipprietkata biss, is-Sur Buttigieg kien jirreżenja immedjatament, inkella kien jitkeċċa bla dewmien hekk kif l-aħbar kienet magħrufa pubblikament. Dan apparti mid-dell kbir li nxteħet fuq il-validità tad-deċżjoni li ttieħdet bħala riżultat ta’ dan l-indħil fil-ħidma tal-Bord.
Imma, huwa fatt magħruf li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar mhiex kapaċi tiddeċiedi fuq kaz daqshekk ċar ta’ tmexxija ħażina. M’għandiex il-kuraġġ li taġixxi.

Ma nistgħux nistennew imġieba mod ieħor. Dawk maħtura fl-awtoritajiet pubbliċi huma kkundizzjonati dwar kif iġibu ruħhom mill-mod kif jaraw lill-politiċi li jkunu ħatruhom iġibu ruħhom. U ngħiduha kif inhi: ma tantx għandhom eżempji tajba fuq xiex jimxu.
L-istorja tal-Panama Papers hi waħda relattivament riċenti. Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat, malli sar jaf li l-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u ċ-Chief of Staff tiegħu Keith Schembri, waqqfu kumpaniji fl-Amerika Ċentrali, fil-Panama, li hi rinomata bħala post fejn taħbi l-flus u tevita t-taxxi, flok ma keċċihom minnufih, qiesu qagħad jiggusthom daqslikieku ma ġara xejn. Dwar x’seta ġara iktar mill-kumpaniji ta’ Mizzi u Schembri u t-tielet kumpanija misterjuża (Egrant), s’issa għad ma nġiebu l-ebda provi. Dan intqal mill-Qrati repetutament, avolja d-deċiżjonijiet tal-Qrati ġew interpretati b’mod li qieshom naddfu lil uħud assoċjati mal-politika minn kull ħtija possibli. Il-fatti huma mod ieħor, kompletament differenti.

S’issa, bla dubju, hemm assenza ta’ provi kredibbli li jindikaw xi ħtija kriminali. Imma ma nistgħux ngħidu l-istess dwar l-imġieba ta’ dawk involuti. Il-provi magħrufa juru bl-iktar mod ċar li tal-inqas hemm imġieba żbaljata u mhix etika u dan minnu nnifsu jiġġustifika sanzjonijiet politiċi.

Dan ma japplikax biss għal dawk il-persuni li huma esposti għall-politika u li issemmew fil-Panama Papers. Japplika ukoll għal xenarji differenti f’kull kamp politiku.

Fuq livell kompletament differenti, jiena diversi drabi għamilt referenza għal tliet rapporti tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet politiċi ta’ Jason Azzopardi, ilkoll konnessi mal-amministrazzjoni ta’ art pubblika. F’kull wieħed minn dawn it-tliet rapporti l-ex-Ministru Jason Azzopardi kien iċċensurat b’qawwa kbira. Ilkoll niftakru meta f’Ottubru 2017 waqt laqgħa pubblika tal-Kumitat Parlamentari għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi uffiċjal pubbliku kien xehed li l-ex Ministru Azzopardi kien jaf b’dak kollu li kien għaddej. Imma Jason Azzopardi jibqa’ jilgħabha tal-iblah u jagħmel ta’ birruħu li ma kellux idea dwar dak li kien għaddej madwaru.

L-Opposizzjoni s’issa għadha ma ġegħlitux jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà ta’ għemilu. La ġiegħlet lilu u l-anqas lil oħrajn. Bilfors, f’dan il-kuntest, allura wieħed jistaqsi dwar kif l-Opposizzjoni tippretendi li neħduha bis-serjetà meta tkun kritika ta’ ħaddieħor. Għax l-ewwel u qabel kollox, l-Opposizzjoni għandha tkun kapaċi tapplika għaliha dak li ġustament tippretendi b’insistenza mingħand ħaddieħor.

Sfortunatament il-klassi politika presentment fil-ħatra mhiex kapaċi tipprattika dak li tipprietka. Meta l-partiti politiċi fil-parlament huma b’kuxjenza mraqqda, qiesha taħt l-effett tal-loppju, m’għandniex għalfejn niskantaw b’dak li naraw madwarna.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum :13 ta’ Jannar 2019

 

Anesthetised accountability

Earlier this week, the Planning and Environment Commissioner at the Ombudsman’s office held that it is nobody’s business as to whether or not the Planning Authority’s Board members attend Board meetings: this is a matter for their exclusive concern. The provision of a jet plane to encourage and facilitate the attendance of Ms Jacqueline Gili at the PA Board meeting which considered and approved the dB monstrosity at Pembroke is thus considered as an undue interference and influence in the Planning Authority’s operations.

The Planning Authority Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg is on record as having taken the responsibility for the decision to bring Ms Gili over to Malta from Catania by air and facilitating her return to continue her interrupted family holiday.

In a country where good governance is upheld, Mr Buttigieg would have resigned forthwith and, in the absence of such a resignation, he would have been fired on the spot as soon as information on the matter became public knowledge.

In addition one would also have had to deal with the fallout on the validity of the decision so taken as a result of such an undue interference.

It is, however, well known that the Planning Authority is incapable of reacting to such blatant bad governance. It is common knowledge that that it lacks the proverbial balls, making it incapable of acting properly.

But we cannot realistically expect otherwise, because the appointees to public authorities mirror the behaviour of their political masters. We cannot expect accountability from the appointees if those that appoint them continuously try to wriggle out of shouldering their responsibilities. There are, of course, some exceptions.

The Panama Papers saga is recent enough. Instead of firing Minister Konrad Mizzi and his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri on the spot for setting up companies in the Central American tax-haven, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat acted as if nothing of significance ever happened. What could have happened – in addition to the setting up Mizzi’s and Schembri’s companies and the third mysterious one (Egrant) is not so far provable. This has been stated repeatedly by our Courts, although the relative decisions have been repeated misinterpreted as absolving various politically exposed people (PEP) from any wrong doing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no doubt that, so far, there is an absence of proof indicating potential criminal liability. However, as a minimum, there is sufficient proof in the public domain pointing towards both errors of judgement and unethical behaviour which, on its own, is sufficient to justify immediate political sanctions.

This is not only applicable to all the PEP featuring in the Panama Papers saga. It is also applicable to other different scenarios across the political divide.

On a completely different level, I refer to the three reports by Auditor-General concerning the political responsibilities of Jason Azzopardi, all three of which deal with the management of government-owned land. In all three cases, former Minister Jason Azzopardi was heavily censored. I remember when a senior civil servant testified during a sitting of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in October 2017, in public session, that then Minister Azzopardi was aware of all the goings-on. Yet Jason Azzopardi sanctimoniously plays the idiot and feigns ignorance of the goings-on around his desk.

As yet, the Opposition has not yet held him (and others) to account. The Opposition cannot expect to be taken seriously when it rightly censors others before it musters sufficient courage to put its own house in order.

Unfortunately, the political class currently in office is not capable of practising what its preaches. With such anesthetised political parties, it is no wonder that this country has long gone to the dogs.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 13 January 2019

Ktibt lill-Ombudsman dwar il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex

 

Għadni kif, madwar siegħa ilu tajt ittra lill-Ombudsman biex jiftaħ investigazzjoni dwar il-mina bejn Malta u Għawdex.

Il-bieraħ il-Ministru Ian Borg ħabbar li fi żmien sitt xhur oħra ser joħroġ it-tender dwar il-mina taħt qiegħ il-baħar bejn Malta u Għawdex. Dan għamlu minkejja li l-istudju dwar l-impatti ambjentali (EIA) li dwaru s’issa ġiet konkluża biss il-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar it-Terms of Reference għadu bil-kemm beda.

Apparti li dan hu l-ikbar diżrispett lejn l-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u r-Riżorsi da parti tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika tal-pajjiż, din id-dikjarazzjoni tal-Onorevoli Ministru hi ukoll indikazzjoni ċara ta’ nuqqas ta’ governanza tajba u twassal il-messaġġ ċar li l-proċess ta’ studju tal-impatti ambjentali hu meqjus bħala wieħed irrelevanti u li qed isir għalxejn għax id-deċiżjonijiet lesti irrispettivament minn dak li jista’ jirriżulta mill-istudji.

Fil-dawl ta’ dan għan-nom ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika jiena dal-għodu tlabt lill-Ombudsman biex jinvestiga u jieħu dawk il-passi li jidhirlu meħtieġa.

Ma nistgħux nibqgħu sejrin hekk. Kif nippretendu lin-nies jagħtu kaz u jsegwu il-liġi, jekk il-Ministru b’imġiebtu jiġi jaqa’ u jqum?

Il-PN u l-governanza tajba

Bħalissa fil-PN kulħadd qiegħed jgħid tiegħu dwar l-għażliet politiċi li għamel il-PN meta kien immexxi minn Simon Busuttil. Busuttil issa ilu ftit li telaq it-tmexxija, meta warrab biex refa’ r-responsabbiltá politika għat-telfa elettorali massiċċa ta’ Ġunju 2017.

Ir-riżultat tal-inkjesta maġisterjali dwar Egrant, li ma sabet l-ebda prova tal-involviment tal-familja Muscat f’din il-kumpanija, hi parti minn dan ix-xenarju. Għax ma tistax titkellem dwar il-korruzzjoni mingħajr ma jkollok f’idejk il-minimu ta’ provi.

Niftakru ftit dwar it-tlett kumpaniji li kienu nħolqu fil-Panama. Tnejn minnhom kienu identifikati ta’ min kienu: ta’ Keith Schembri u Konrad Mizzi. Dwar it-tielet waħda kien hawn ħafna għidut sakemm f’April tal-2017 fuq il-blog ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia kienet ħarġet l-allegazzjoni miktuba għall-ewwel darba li tassoċja lil Michelle Muscat mat-tielet kumpanija, l-Egrant.

Il-PN kien għamilha fatta – mhux biss Simon Busuttil – u kważi b’vuċi waħda kien hemm ripetizzjoni ta’ din l-allegazzjoni daqs li kieku kienet skoperta tagħhom. Dakinnhar ma smajt lil ħadd mill-PN jgħid fil-pubbliku kliem differenti. Fi ftit kliem ir-responsabbiltá politika kienet waħda kollettiva.

Kienet Alternattiva Demokratika biss li applikat il-brejkijiet. Fil-fatt f’artiklu ippubblikat f’Illum nhar l-24 t’April 2017, intitolat Pilatu fid-dawl tax-xemx jiena għidt hekk : “li tkun moralment konvint li l-istorja hi korretta mhux biżżejjed. Din l-istorja teħtieġ il-konferma li tiġi mill-provi tad-dokumenti u mhux mid-dimostrazzjonijiet. Għax fuq id-dokumenti hi mibnija. Allura hemm obbligu li dawn id-dokumenti tant bażiċi jaraw id-dawl tax-xemx.

Id-dokumenti qatt ma rajnihom sakemm sabu ruħhom għand il-Maġistrat li ikkonkluda li huma foloz.

Ovvjament hemm ħafna spjegazzjonijiet li jeħtieġ li jsiru. Fosthom hemm bżonn ikun magħruf is-sors tad-dokumenti foloz. Minn fejn ġew. Imma probabbilment qatt ma nkunu nafu għax is-sors tal-ġurnaliżmu hu protett. Dejjem sakemm Pierre Portelli ma tmissux il-kuxjenza u jikxef lil min daħħlu fi sqaq.

Il-ġlieda tal-PN favur il-governanza tajba dejjem kienet waħda difettuża.

Niftakar ċar qiesu l-bieraħ waqt l-unika laqgħa li Alternattiva Demokratika kellha mat-tmexxija tal-PN dwar il-possibilitá ta’ alleanza pre-elettorali konna iddiskutejna l-kredibilitá tal-PN dwar dan. Min-naħa ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika konna tlabna spjegazzjoni mill-PN għal numru ta’ issues li kienu jitfgħu dell sostanzjali fuq dak kollu li l-Partit Nazzjonalista kien qed jgħid dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ governanza tajba.

Tlabna spjegazzjoni dwar ħames każi li dwarhom diġa ktibt diversi drabi u ċjoe : Beppe Fenech Adami u r-rwol tiegħu fuq kumpanija Capital One Investment Group/Baltimore Fiduciary Services, Claudio Grech u l-iskandlu taż-żejt u l-fatt li ma kienx jiftakar jekk qatt iltaqax ma George Farrugia, il-każ tal-invoices foloz bejn il-Grupp dB u l-PN, il-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Mario de Marco bejn l-obbligi parlamentari tiegħu u l-fatt li kien konsulent legali ewlieni tal-grupp dB, u l-applikazzjoni ta’ Toni Bezzina għal villa ODZ għalih meta l-PN kien qed imexxi l-quddiem politika ambjentali differenti.

L-ispjegazzjoni li tlabna ma ingħatax għax weħilna fuq affarijiet oħra. Imma dan hu it-track record tal-PN dwar il-governanza tajba. Li l-Partit Laburista hu agħar minn hekk ma hi tal-ebda konsolazzjoni!

Adrian Delia mhux mejjet bil-ġuħ

It-Times qalulna illum li l-kontijiet tat-taxxa li l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni kellu pendenti  tħallsu mill-kunjati ta’ Adrian Delia.

Qrajna matul il-ġimgħat u x-xhur li għaddew fuq kontijiet pendenti ta’ Adrian Delia dwar credit cards, overdrafts personali mad-diversi banek u d-diffikultajiet tal-kumpanija Mġarr Developments Limited li fiha Adrian Delia għandu sehem minoritarju ta’ madwar 9%.

Xi żmien ilu kumpanija tal-awdituri kienet iċċertifikat li Adrian Delia għandu x’jagħmel tajjeb għal dak li għandu jagħti lill-banek. Tajjeb.

Imma x’sens jagħmel għall-Opposizzjoni li tkun fl-aħbarijiet mhux għal proposti politiċi innovattivi tagħha (fejnhom?) imma għall-mod kif il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni jamministra flusu?

Il-messaġġ ċar li Adrian Delia qed jagħti u ilu jagħti sa minn meta ġie elett bħala Kap tal-Opposizzjoni mhux wieħed ta’ serjetá. Smajna kull xorta ta’ stejjer dwar dan: l-ebda waħda minnhom ma tnissel fiduċja f’min jippretendi li jmexxi l-pajjiż.

Għax jekk l-amministrazzjoni ta’ flusek tnissel dubji, kif qatt tista’ titwemmen meta titkellem dwar it-tmexxija tajba?

Delia, ovvjament mhux mejjet bil-ġuħ. Imma madwaru hemm għatx kbir għas-serjetá fit-tmexxija, fil-forom kollha tagħha.

Wrong messages from the National Audit Office

 

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recently published its report for 2017. In a democracy, the role of the NAO is of paramount importance. Its role of ascertaining the presence (or absence) of good governance at all levels is crucial in determining the health of the public sector.

The report lists the investigations carried out during 2017 in respect of which separate reports have been published and discussed publicly. These include the annual report on the public accounts, the consolidated annual report on local government, special audits and investigations and performance audits. Last year also saw the publication of a stand-alone report on the results achieved by the three main revenue-generating departments of the government, namely the Inland Revenue Department, the Value Added Tax Department and the Department of Customs.

In his overview, Auditor General Charles Deguara welcomes the positive developments, highlighting the administration’s commitment to implementing the NAO’s recommendations as far as possible. This has been done for two consecutive years and it is to be hoped that it becomes an annual occurrence.

The report explains the efforts made to continuously train the staff, thereby ensuring that, as far as possible, an internal team of experts is available to monitor and investigate as required. This is essential in order that the NAO keeps the administration on its toes.

The NAO, in its present format, was set up 20 years ago. Since 1997, it has been part of Parliament, accountable directly to Parliament. Previously, although technically independent it formed part of the Ministry of Finance.

During the past 20 years, it has had much to do. Its specific investigations are the ones about which we hear the most but the workings of the NAO go much deeper. Its continuous examination of the country’s public accounts, and the recommendations made to fine tune or correct methods of operation are always work in progress.

In order for the NAO to be as effective as possible, it should ensure that it keeps at arm’s length from the administration’s day to day operations. For this reason I was worried when reading in the 2017 report a short list of a number of domestic working groups in which the NAO participated. These range from the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) Implementation Project Board, the Financial Legislation Working Group, the Local Government Good Governance Working Group and others. The NAO should have oversight and not sit around the same table forming part of working groups to implement or draft a proposal for implementation.

Some years back the Auditor-General, together with the Ombudsman and the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, had decided to go beyond their terms of remit and accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to examine the issue of the salaries of MPs and holders of political office. I had taken the Ombudsman Said Pullicino to task about his stand when, together with Arnold Cassola I had met the trio. They then justified their stand by referring to legal advice from the Attorney General’s office and others! The three wise men did not realise that they had compromised their office because they cannot – and should not – switch from being regulators to being advisors, even if temporarily.

The NAO would do well to take a step back, thereby ensuring that it is at arm’s length from the administration. Otherwise it risks sending the wrong messages.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 29 April 2018

Michael Briguglio: kollox bil-maqlub!

 

Fuq Lovinmalta.com il-bieraħ u l-Independent illum kien rappurtat li Michael Briguglio qal hekk:
“I joined PN as I believed in Simon Busuttil’s struggle for good governance which AD did not support.”

Michael Briguglio ried li Alternattiva Demokratika tissieħeb fl-alleanza mal-PN irrispettivament mill-konsegwenzi. Kien ilu żmien konsiderevoli jagħmel pressjoni f’dan is-sens fuq il-predeċessur tiegħi Arnold Cassola. U Arnold b’mod ġentili kien joqgħod jieħu paċenzja jisimgħu anke meta kien “jinfurmah” li kien ilu żmien jiltaqa’ waħdu “jiddiskuti” fuq din l-imbierka koalizzjoni ma’ Simon Busuttil. U anke kien ftaħar li Busuttil wegħdu bosta affarijiet (qatt ma qal x’kienu) imma hu, qal, qatt ma aċċetta xejn.

Kif għidt diversi drabi, Alternattiva Demokratika ma waslitx għal ftehim mal-PN mhux biss għax il-PN ma riedx koalizzjoni suriet in-nies, imma ukoll għax ma kienx kredibbli.

Meta ltqajna mad-delegazzjoni tal-PN ġbidnielhom l-attenzjoni għal numru ta’ inkonsistenzi serji fl-imġieba tal-PN. Inkonsistenzi li lilna f’Alternattiva Demokratika kienu jdejjquna u li dwarhom konna diġa tkellimna pubblikament diversi drabi. Għax ma tistax tipprietka l-governanza tajba u fl-istess ħin meta uħud mill-għola persuni fil-PN ikun responsabbli ta’ imġieba mhux aċċettabbli, qiesu ma ġara xejn: il-kaz ta’ Beppe Fenech Adami u l-Capital One Investment Group, Mario de Marco u l-Grupp db, Simon Busuttil u l-invoices foloz tal-grupp db u Claudio Grech li ma jiftakarx jekk qatt iltaqax ma’ George Farrugia taz-zejt. Biex ma nsemmix ukoll lil Toni Bezzina li waqt li kien qed jikteb il-policy tal-PN dwar l-ambjent (ODZ hu ODZ) applika għal villa ODZ għalih, imma l-applikazzjoni kienet fuq isem il-mara! U qiesu ma ġara xejn!

Michael Briguglio għandu kull dritt li jqies dan kollu bħala insinifikanti. Imma ma jistax imbagħad fl-istess nifs jgħid li hu favur il-governanza tajba u jkun kredibbli.

Dan il-wiċċ b’ieħor jiena ma nistax għalih.

Michael Briguglio, kollox bil-maqlub!

Il-futur ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika

It-tnaqqis tal-voti li Alternattiva Demokratika kisbet fl-elezzjoni ġenerali ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa l-oħra minn 1.8% għal 0.83% tal-voti totali kienet bla dubju daqqa kbira. Imma kienet daqqa antiċipata u direttament marbut mar-rifjut ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika li tipparteċipa fil-Front Nazzjonali mmexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Mhux l-ewwel darba li Alternattiva Demokratika qalgħet dawn id-daqqiet. Ħarsu, per eżempju, lejn l-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-2003. Dakinnhar, id-daqqa kienet ikbar, għax il-vot mixħut favur Alternattiva Demokratika kien niżel sal-livell ta’ 0.69% tal-voti totali, l-agħar riżultat fit-28 sena storja ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika. Imma fi żmien sena dan reġa’ tela għal 9.33% tal-vot popolari fl-elezzjonijiet tal-2004 għall-Parlament Ewropew.

Tul is-snin Alternattiva Demokratika qatt ma organizzat ruħha fuq livell lokali jew reġjonali. Dan minħabba nuqqas ta’ voluntiera imma ukoll minħabba allerġija tat-tmexxija għal kull xorta ta’ burokrazija (anke dik l-iktar minima) kif ukoll minħabba l-profil tal-votant tipiku ta’ AD. Dan hu difett f’Alternattiva Demokratika li ilu preżenti sa minn meta twaqqfet liema difett qatt ma ngħata l-attenzjoni mistħoqqha.

Fil-fehma tiegħi, dan hu l-kawża ewlenija għan-nuqqas ta’ kapaċitá ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika li tilqa’ għall-attakki diretti mmirati lejn il-votanti tagħha. Hi ukoll ir-raġuni għala AD ma rnexxieliex, tul is-snin, tapprofitta ruħha daqstant miċ-ċaqlieq ta’ votanti minn partit għall-ieħor.

Huwa tajjeb li jkollok prinċipji soddi, imma n-nuqqas ta’ presenza kontinwa u organizzata fil-lokalitajiet inaqqas l-interazzjoni mal-elettorat, liema interazzjoni teħtieġ li tkun waħda kontinwa biex tkun effettiva. Dan fisser li waqt li AD setgħet tieħu d-deċiżjoni politika dwar l-involviment jew le f’allejanza pre-elettorali ma kelliex il-kapaċitá organizzattiva biex tilqa’ għall-konsegwenzi.

Tajjeb li l-qarrej jiftakar li Alternattiva Demokratika kienet taqbel li titwaqqaf allejanza pre-elettorali wiesa’ kontra l-korruzzjoni u favur il-governanza tajba. Il-punt ta’ nuqqas ta’ qbil mal-proposta tal-PN kien li fil-fehma ta’ AD l-allejanza proposta kellha tkun distinta mil-partiti politiċi individwali li jiffurmawha. F’Alternattiva Demokratika konna inkwetati li l-proposta tal-PN biex AD tissieħeb mal-istess PN billi tifforma parti mill-istess lista elettorali inevitabilment kienet ser twassal għal diversi sitwazzjonijiet li ma kienux aċċettabbli: bħal posizzjonijiet dwar proposti politiċi inaċċettabbli kif ukoll il-presenza ta’ kandidati mhux aċċettabbli. Ir-riskju kien kbir wisq u ma konniex disposti li noħduh.

Sfortunatament iż-żmien tana raġun. Dan seħħ, per eżempju, meta l-PN approva li jippreżenta lill-kandidat omofobiku Josie Muscat. Seħħ ukoll bid-dikjarazzjonijiet politiċi kemm ta’ Marlene Farrugia kif ukoll ta’ Simon Busuttil favur il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa kif ukoll favur l-insib. Seħħ ukoll bil-posizzjonijiet kontradittorji dwar iċ-ċirkwit tat-tlielaq tal-karozzi kif ukoll bl-emfasi ta’ Simon Busuttil dwar il-mina proposta li tgħaqqad Malta u Għawdex. Posizzjonijiet politiċi li huma kollha inaċċettabbli għal Alternattiva Demokratika.

B’żieda ma dan, il-PN, naqas milli jindirizza l-kontradizzjonijiet interni fi ħadnu dwar il-governanza tajba. Dawn jinkludu n-nuqqas ta’ Claudio Grech li jiftakar x’laqgħat kellu ma George Farrugia dwar l-iskandlu taż-żejt, il-kaz ta’ Beppe Fenech Adami dwar in-nuqqas ta’ deċiżjoni għaqlija meta aċċetta li jkun direttur tal-kumpanija Capital One Investments Limited, il-kunflitt ta’ interess ta’ Mario de Marco dwar il-grupp kummerċjali db kif ukoll it-taħwida ta’ Simon Busuttil innifsu dwar l-invoices tal-grupp db u l-assoċjazzjoni tagħhom mal-iffinianzjar tal-PN innifsu.

Dan kollu, safejn hu magħruf, ma kellu l-ebda importanza għall-Partit Demokratiku imma għal Alternattiva Demokratika kien kollu ostaklu għall-formazzjoni ta’ alleanza pre-elettorali għax kien imur b’mod sfaċċat kontra l-proposti elettorali favur tmexxija tajba. Dawn il-materji semmejnihom waqt il-laqgħa esploratorja li kellna mal-PN imma id-delegazzjoni tal-PN ma wriet l-ebda interess: tbissmet u injorathom. Meta jkun meqjus dan kollu, id-deċiżjoni ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika li ma tissieħibx fil-Front Nazzjonali mmexxi mill-PN kienet waħda tajba u dan għax, kif spjegat iktar il-fuq, kienet toħloq bosta diffikultajiet u kontradizzjonijiet.

Matul ix-xhur li ġejjin nittama li jkun hemm it-tibdil meħtieg f’Alternattiva Demokratika biex din tiġġedded u tissaħħah. Huwa tibdil meħtieġ biex AD tkun iktar effettiva u tkun kapaċi tikkomunika mal-votanti aħjar is-sena kollha, u dan minkejja l-limitazzjoni li għandha ta’ riżorsi.

Ippubblikat minn Illum : il-Ħadd 11 ta’ Ġunju 2017

AD’s future

The reduction of Alternattiva Demokratika’s share of the national vote from 1.8 per cent  to 0.83 per cent was a heavy blow. It was, however, anticipated and was directly linked to AD not accepting to form part of the PN-led National Front.

Alternattiva Demokratika has been there before, its share of the national vote having dipped in the past – particularly during the 2003 general election. On that occasion it went down further than this year’s performance and reached 0.69 per cent, the lowest point ever in AD’s 28-year history – only to rebound with a vengeance to win a staggering 9.33 per cent of the popular vote in the 2004 European Parliament elections, just 12 months later.

Over the years, AD has refrained from extending its organisational arm at a regional and possibly local level. This was primarily dictated by the numbers of available volunteers but also by an in-built allergy to anything deemed even minimally bureaucratic, as well as by the volatile profile of the typical AD voter. This is AD’s major weakness: it has been ever-present since the party’s foundation and has never been adequately addressed.

This weakness, is in my view, the major cause of AD’s inability (to date) to successfully withstand or substantially mitigate frontal attacks on its voter base. Likewise, it is the reason why AD has not been able to tap adequately and successfully into voter dissatisfaction with other political parties over the years.

Having sound principles is fine, but not having the organisational tools to propagate your views and effectively link up with grass-roots support is damaging. This lack of organisational capability signified that while AD could take the political decision on whether to form part or not of a pre-election alliance, it could not adequately handle the consequences of this decision.

It would be pertinent to remind readers that AD was in favour of establishing a broad based pre-electoral alliance against corruption and in favour of good governance. The basic point of contention regarding the PN’s proposal for the foundation of such an alliance was the need that it be distinct from its constituent political parties. At AD, we were worried that the PN proposal to add AD and as an appendage to the PN was unacceptable on a point of principle and would inevitably lead to being lumped with undesirable situations such as unacceptable policy positions as well as undesirable candidates. We were not prepared to take such a risk.

Unfortunately, we were proven right, for example, through the selection by the PN of homophobic candidate Josie Muscat as well as through policy declarations by both Marlene Farrugia and Simon Busuttil in favour of spring hunting and bird-trapping, as well as contradictory stances on the motor racing track, or Simon Busuttil’s emphasis on the tunnel between Malta and Gozo with which AD disagrees.

The PN, in addition, failed to address its internal contradictions on good governance. Pending internal PN governance issues include Claudio Grech’s amnesia in relation to meetings with George Farrugia of oil-scandal fame, Beppe Fenech Adami’s error of judgement in taking-up the directorship of Capital One Investments Ltd, Mario de Marco’s db Group conflict of interest, as well as Simon Busuttil’s mishandling of the db Group invoices saga and its relevance to the financing of the PN.

From what is known, these issues, did not bother the Democratic Party, but in AD’s view they were a serious impediment to the proper functioning of a pre-election alliance, as they run directly opposite to an electoral platform based on good governance. We raised all this during the exploratory talks held with the PN, but the PN delegation dismissed these concerns outright.

Given the above, Alternattiva Demokratika took the right decision in not joining the PN-led National Front. Any Parliamentary seat that AD could have gained had it joined the pre-election alliance without the above issues having being addressed would have been tainted.

The future for AD holds great potential. In the coming months changes will be made but these will be carried out at AD’s pace. These changes are an essential prerequisite for ensuring that AD can function more effectively and efficiently in such a way that it can communicate better with its voter base.

published by The Malta Independent on Sunday, 11 June 2017

Coalition building: beyond the arithmetic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 16 April 2017