A Christmas carol for Jason Azzopardi

i-am-the-ghost-of-christmas-past

 

Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, Jason Azzopardi is haunted with scenes from his past. Scrooge had to deal with the Ghost of Christmas Past while Jason has been spotlighted by the Auditor-General in three separate reports. These deal with issues forming part of the political responsibilities which he shouldered when part of the Lawrence Gonzi Cabinet.

The first report was presented one year ago and dealt with the issuance of encroachment permits on the eve of the 2013 general election.  The Auditor-General then commented on Minister Jason Azzopardi’s intervention in the issuance of encroachment permits, emphasising that his intervention was “unwarranted”.

Pompous as ever, Jason Azzopardi insisted that he acted within the parameters of the law. He was not capable of recognising that he erred. Nor was he publicly chastised in any way by his own political party which has called for everybody’s resignation, except his own.

Two other reports were published by the Auditor-General last week.  Both deal with government land: its acquisition in one case, its transfer in another.

The first report investigates the acquisition of 233, 236 and 237, Republic Street Valletta.  The Auditor-General, in this investigation identified significant shortcomings in the process of negotiation, critically and negatively conditioning Government’s negotiating position. “This serious shortcoming,” states the Auditor-General, “was raised in concerns raised by the Permanent Secretary,” who was over-ruled.

Notwithstanding the corrective measures subsequently taken, the process remained flawed. This, emphasised the Auditor-General, represented a fundamental weakness in the process of negotiation (with HSBC), “effectively limiting Government’s bargaining power”.  Bad governance at its worst!

The second report deals with the investigation on the transfer of land at Ta’ L-Istabal, Qormi.   The Auditor-General concluded that “failure in terms of good governance, to varying degrees, is a recurring theme that emerged” throughout his review of the matter. The Auditor-General also noted “extraordinary haste” when as a result of problems being identified authorisations were obtained and contracts signed in a matter of two days.

The Auditor-General lists a number of public officers as being responsible for the mess created when conditions attached to a contract concerning government property were cancelled illegally without Parliament’s approval in terms of legislation regulating the disposal of government land.

Describing this mess, the Auditor-General states that he “did not find any direct evidence of political pressure exerted in the processes reviewed.” The emphasis obviously is on the words “direct evidence” as reading through the report it is amply clear that a selection of the top brass within the civil service would not act in such blatant defiance of the law unless they had at least tacit approval of the holders of political office to which they were responsible. The civil service officials mentioned by the Auditor-General as being directly responsible are: The Director General, the Notary and the Assistant Director Contracts of the Government Property Division.

The Auditor-General makes this very important consideration: “ …………… an element of political pressure was asserted by the Chair Vassallo Builders Group Ltd, who alleged that Marsovin Ltd had prior agreement with the ‘Minister’ and the GPD. The Director Marsovin Group Ltd negated this allegation, as did the Minister of Finance, the Economy and Investment and the Parliamentary Secretary for Revenues and Land, who indicated that they were not aware of the case at the time. Queried in this respect, the Chair Vassallo Builders Group Ltd indicated no knowledge of who the ‘Minister’ was. While the NAO cannot rule out pressure being exerted by any of the aforementioned, or possibly by other persons who did not come to this Office’s attention, the facts of the case render immediately evident that pressure was in fact exerted to the detriment of Government’s interests.”

Ultimately the responsibility for this mess lies on Jason Azzopardi’s lap. He has a lot of pending explanations. He will obviously not resign as clearly he only pays lip service to good governance.

In addition, this report from the Auditor-General possibly throws some light on another incident: the loan of €250,000 by a certain Nazzareno Vassallo to the PN’s commercial arms on the eve of the 2013 general elections. We were then informed that the loan was of a commercial nature on commercial terms.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How can anyone believe Jason Azzopardi and his political party preaching adherence to good governance when as recently as 2012 they made a mess on all that they could lay their hands on?

Referring to Joseph Muscat’s gross administrative incompetence and the scandals popping up every other day is no solution. The more we unravel from the past the more clear it becomes that both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party, each in its own way, as a result of their shady methods of operation, cannot be trusted with the reins of power.

published in The Malta Independent : Tuesday 27 December 2016

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Min imiss jirriżenja?

responsibility

 

Meta l-Kodiċi tal-Etika dwar il-persuni fil-ħajja pubblika f’Malta jitkellem dwar ir-rigali li dawn jirċievu, dan jagħmlu bl-iskop li jnaqqas il-possibilità li tinħoloq obbligazzjoni bejn il-politiku u min jagħtih ir-rigal. Hemm miżuri differenti fil-Kodiċi tal-Etika dwar il-Membri Parlamentari u f’dak dwar il-Ministri.

Il-Ministri, jgħidilna l-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Kabinett ma jistgħux jaċċettaw rigali jew servizzi li l-entità tagħhom jistgħu jpoġġuhom f’obbligazzjoni, kemm jekk din tkun reali kif ukoll jekk tidher li tista’ tkun (regolament 58). Jiġifieri l-obbligu tal-Ministru m’huwiex li jiddikjara x’rigali irċieva, iżda li ma jaċċettahomx.

Il-każ tal-ex-Ministru Joe Cassar hu dwar tlett rigali. L-ewwel rigal kien karozza li min bigħielu ma riedx flus tagħha. Qallu biex flok ma jħallas lilu, jagħti donazzjoni lill-PN.  Iż-żewġ rigali l-oħra huma  sistema tas-sigurtà  u xogħolijiet f’razzett f’Ħad-Dingli: xogħol li sar fi ħwejġu u ħallas għalih ħaddieħor skond irċevuti ppubblikati.  Cassar ikkontesta dak li ntqal dwaru, inkluż b’diskors fil-Parlament. Fl-aħħar, għalkemm baqa’ jinnega li qatt ta’ xi forma ta’ awtorizzazzjoni biex jitħallsu kontijiet f’ismu, Cassar aċċetta li seta ġieb ruħu aħjar u li għamel żball ta’ ġudizzju (error of judgement). L-ewwel skuża ruħu u irriżenja minn kelliemi tal-grupp parlamentari tal-PN għall-Kultura u sussegwentement irriżenja ukoll minn Membru Parlamentari.

Sa ftit siegħat qabel mat-Tabib Joe Cassar irriżenja minn Membru Parlamentari, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil kien qed jgħid li ma’ hemm l-ebda raġuni għaliex għandu jirriżenja, u dan minħabba li ma kienx hemm fondi pubbliċi involuti. Il-Partit Laburista min-naħa l-oħra kien qed jinsisti għar-riżenja.

Ir-riżenja ta’ Joe Cassar ma kienet mistennija minn ħadd. Il-Partit Nazzjonalista  esprima ruħu ċar: li l-iżball ta’ Cassar ma kienx jiġġustifika la tkeċċija (jew riżenja) mill-Partit u l-anqas riżenja minn Membru Parlamentari.

L-anqas il-Partit Laburista ma emmen li Cassar kien ser jirriżenja.  Minkejja li insista fuq ir-riżenja, ma naħsibx li l-Partit Laburista qatt ried lil Joe Cassar jirriżenja. Għax issa li Cassar irriżenja, l-PL ħoloq problema kbira għalih innifsu. Għax ir-riżenja ta’ Cassar hi issa l-kejl  li jrid iqies Joseph Muscat kull meta jkollu Ministru jew Segretarju Parlamentari fil-Kabinett tiegħu li jiżbalja inkella li jkollu jġorr responsabbiltà politika għal żbalji goffi fid-dikasteru tiegħu.

Joseph Muscat diġà keċċa lil Manwel Mallia mill-Kabinett, meta dan ma kellux il-kuraġġ morali li jerfa’r-responsabbiltà politika tiegħu w jirriżenja fid-dawl tar-rapport tal-inkjesta dwar l-inċident tal-isparatura li fiha kien involut ix-xufier tiegħu. Dan iżda kien kostrett li jagħmlu wara għoxrin ġurnata ta’ tkaxkir tas-saqajn, għax ippressat mill-medja u l-opinjoni pubblika.

Ir-riżenja, meta tkun deċiżjoni politika ġenwina, għandha tkun waħda immedjata u mhux bħala riżultat ta’ pressjoni tal-medja jew tal-opinjoni pubblika. Hekk għamlu l-politiċi ta’ stoffa f’kull parti tad-dinja demokratika. Il-politiku ġenwin m’għandux bżonn suġġerituri biex jirrealizza meta l-iżball hu gravi biżżejjed li jiġġustifika r-riżenja.

Dan il-punt ser jerġa’ jqum fid-dawl tal-investigazzjoni li qed jagħmel l-Awditur Ġenerali dwar l-esproprijazzjoni tal-binja fi Triq iz-Zekka l-Belt. Diġa ġiet konkluża investigazzjoni interna fis-servizz pubbliku u dan ir-rapport ilu f’idejn il-Prim Ministru sa minn Lulju li għadda.

Il-Prim Ministru qiegħed ikaxkar saqajh biex jieħu deċiżjoni dwar il-konklużjonijiet fir-rapport li għandu f’idejh: bl-iskuża li qed jistenna lill-Awditur Ġenerali jippreżenta r-rapport tiegħu.

Waqt li l-Prim Ministru b’solennità jiddikjara li qiegħed jistenna lill-Awditur Ġenerali, dawk ta’ madwaru (bla dubju bil-kunsens tiegħu) għalfu lil sezzjoni tal-istampa b’biċċiet mir-rapport intern li s’issa għadu kunfidenzjali. Kien ikun ħafna iktar għaqli kieku l-Prim Ministru jippubblika immedjatament ir-rapport kollu (u mhux biċċiet minnu kif jaqbel) u jieħu passi immedjati dwar dak li jirriżulta mir-rapport.  Hi ipokrezija politika li l-ewwel tiddikjara li mhux ser tippubblika r-rapport biex ma tinfluwenzax lill-Awditur Ġenerali, u mbagħad tippermetti l-pubblikazzjoni ta’ partijiet minnu.

Ftit ġranet wara li dan ir-rapport kien ippreżentat lill-Gvern, lejn tmiem Lulju 2015 kumbinazzjoni, irriżenja d-Direttur Ġenerali tad-Diviżjoni tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern. Dakinnhar intqal li din ir-riżenja kienet għal raġunijiet personali. Ovvjament, emmen jekk trid. Bosta, jiena nkluż, ma tantx huma konvinti minn dawn il-kumbinazzjonijiet.

Bosta jemmnu li d-Direttur Ġenerali, li ntqal li irriżenja għal raġunijiet personali, kien il-ħaruf tas-sagrifċċju li ġarr fuq spallejh il-piż kollu. Jekk dan hu hekk, hu żbaljat li jġorr il-piż waħdu. Huwa għalhekk ukoll li qed tikber il-pressjoni pubblika biex is-Segretarju Parlamentari Michael Falzon jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà politika għall-amministrazzjoni ħażina tat-taqsima tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern u jirriżenja.  Ir-reżistenza biex dan isir la tagħmel ġid lil Falzon u l-anqas lill-Gvern.  Lil Falzon nafu bħala bniedem raġjonevoli li bla dubju jifhem id-differenza bejn responsabbiltà personali u responsabbiltà politika. Nifhem li ftit għandu eżempji tajbin fuq xiex jimxi, peró tajjeb li jifhem li dik hi l-unika triq onorevoli.

Fil-każ ta’ Manwel Mallia damu jaħsbuha għoxrin ġurnata biex jiġi mwarrab. Joe Cassar dam jaħsibha ftit ġranet biex irriżenja. Michael Falzon għandu jrabbi ftit tal-kuraġġ biex hu ukoll jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet politiċi tiegħu. Huwa responsabbli għal mod kif iġibu ruħhom ta’ taħtu.

Ir-riżenja ta’ Joe Cassar ma naħsibx li tħallilu wisq alternattivi. Billi jkaxkar saqajh m’hu ser isolvi xejn.

 

pubblikat f’ILLUM : il-Ħadd 8 ta’ Novembru 2015

Logħba ċess bejn Joseph u Simon

chess

Il-każ Joe Cassar hu logħba ċess bejn Joseph Muscat u Simon Busuttil.

Hu imminenti li joħroġ ir-rapport tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar il-ħidma tat-Taqsima tal-Propjeta tal-Gvern. X’ser ikun fih dan ir-rapport ħadd ma jaf. Imma l-Gvern jaf x’irriżulta fl-inkjesta interna li diġa saret u li kienet konkluża fi tmiem Lulju 2015.

Dakinnhar, kumbinazzjoni, għal raġunijiet personali irreżenja d-Direttur Ġenerali tat-Taqsima tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern.

Fil-każ ta’ Joe Cassar, s’issa l-informazzjoni hi li deher li irċieva rigali. Sfortunatament għal Cassar, il-mod li bih aġixxa jwasslu għall-konklużjoni li kienu rigali, anke jekk issa li l-affarijiet saru pubbliċi huwa jiċħad li qatt awtorizza li jsir xi ħlas f’ismu. L-iżball ta’ Cassar hu żball ta’ ġudizzju u imġieba mhux korretta. Imma huwa żball li jservi tajjeb fil-logħba ċess ta’ Joseph Muscat li kontinwament jipprova jmewwet dak li jagħmlu ta’ madwaru.

Li Cassar irreżenja minn kelliemi għall-kultura kien pass fid-direzzjoni t-tajba. Kien imma daqsxejn tard. Kien ikun ferm aħjar kieku irreżenja qabel, flok ma qagħad iġib argumenti fjakki bid-diskors li għamel il-ġimgħa l-oħra l-parlament.

Il-każ ta’ Joe Cassar kien bla dubju mossa intenzjonata biex tnaqqas l-impatt tar-rapport tal-Awditur Ġenerali li issa nistennewh minn ħin għall-ieħor. Rapport li ghalkemm Joseph Muscat ma jafx x’fih għandu indikazzjoni tajba dwar fejn jista’ jasal għax diġa għandu f’idejh ir-rapport tal-Internal Audit and Investigations Department dwar l-istess suġġett.

Għax jaf safejn jista’ jasal l-Awditur Ġenerali jrid ikompli jnaqqas il-ftit kredibilità li għad għandha l-Opposizzjoni. Il-messaġġ ta’ Joseph lil Simon hu wieħed: int ma tistax titkellem, għax ta’ madwarek għad għandhom ħafna x’iwieġbu.

Dan hu argument inaċċettabbli f’soċjetà demokratika. Jista’ jibqa’ jsir biss sakemm il-Parlament jibqa’ magħmul minn żewġ partiti. Għax bi tlett partiti fil-Parlament iċ-ċess politiku ma jistax jintlagħab.

Niskata melħ għal Joseph Muscat

pinch of salt

Id-Diviżjoni tal-Propjeta tal-Gvern (Government Property Division) qegħda taħt il-lenti tal-Awditur Ġenerali. Qiegħed jinvestiga x-xiri da parti tal-Gvern ta’ parti minn propjetà fil-Belt Valletta u l-mod kif minflok ħallas bi flus in parti ħallas bi propjetà oħra. Hemm diffikultà dwar il-valuri kemm tal-propjetà li nxtrat kif ukoll tal-propjetà li ngħatat bi tpartit.

Il-Gvern għamel sewwa li ordna inkjesta interna mill-Internal Audit and Investigations Department dwar il-każ.  Ir-rapport ta’ din l-inkjesta ilu xi ġimgħat lest u l-Prim Ministru ħabbar xi żmien ilu li fil-fehma tiegħu m’huwiex għaqli li jippubblika dak ir-rapport f’dan l-istadju u dan biex ma jippreġudikax l-investigazzjoni tal-Awditur Ġenerali.

Ir-raġunament tal-Prim Ministru huwa korrettissimu. L-Awditur Ġenerali għandu jitħalla fil-libertà kollha fl-investigazzjoni tiegħu u għandu jkun hu li jippubblika l-konklużjonijiet tal-investigazzjoni wara li jara dak kollu ta’ relevanza.

Waqt li qed nistennew il-konklużjonijiet  tal-Awditur Ġenerali  hemm parti mill-media li qed tikkumenta dwar punti li jidhru li huma konsiderazzjonijiet magħżula b’mod selettiv mir-rapport tal-inkjesta li ġiet konkluża mill-Internal Audit and Investigations Department u li suppost għadu kunfidenzjali skond id-deċiżjoni tal-Prim Ministru.

Hi ħasra li d-deċiżjoni tal-Prim Ministru li ma jippubblikax ir-rapport tal-Internal Audit and Investigations Department ma ġietx osservata minn dawk fil-Berġa ta’ Kastilja li kellhom f’idejhom ir-rapport tal-inkjesta interna.

Għandna sitwazzjoni fejn il-Prim Ministru jiddikjara solennement mod u dawk ta’ madwaru jagħmlu mod ieħor. Hemm min jgħid li ħafna drabi d-dikjarazzjonijiet solenni tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat trid teħodhom b’niskata melħ, għax ġeneralment ifissru bil-maqlub ta’ dak li jgħid.

Ovvjament politika ġdida din.

Ignoring residents and their local councils

strait street valletta 2

 

Government has published a consultation document dealing with the use of open public spaces by catering establishments, entitled Guidelines on Outdoor Catering Areas on Open Public Space : a holistic approach to creating an environment of comfort and safety.

This document was launched earlier this week at a press conference addressed by the Minister for Tourism Edward Zammit Lewis and the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for planning and simplification of administrative processes Michael Falzon.

The inter-Ministerial committee set up by government to draft the policy document was limited to representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, MEPA, Transport Malta, the Government Property Division, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (MHRA). Representatives of the local councils were excluded from participating.

It seems that when the matter was being considered by Cabinet, the Minister for Local Councils Owen Bonnici was fast asleep as otherwise he would undoubtedly have drawn the attention of his colleagues that the Local Councils Act, in article 33, deems it a function of local councils “to advise and, where applicable, be consulted by, any authority empowered to take any decisions directly or indirectly affecting the Council and the residents it is responsible for”.

Surely the use of public open spaces by catering establishments is a matter which is of considerable interest to local councils as it affects both the councils and the residents they represent. Yet the government has a different opinion as representatives of local councils were not invited at the drawing board where the guidelines on the use of public open spaces by catering establishments were being drafted.

The guidelines introduce a one stop shop at MEPA, thereby eliminating the need to apply for around four other permits for the placing of tables and chairs in public open spaces. This would be a positive development if MEPA can take on board all the considerations which are normally an integral part of the four other application processes.

If the utilisation of public open spaces was limited to the squares in our towns and villages, I do not think that there would be any issue. There is sufficient space in such areas and using part of it for open air catering activities there would not be cause for concern.

However, problems will definitely arise in areas of mixed use, that is, areas where the ground floor is used commercially and the overlying areas are used as residences. This is a common occurrence in many of the localities where there is a high demand by the catering business for the utilisation of public open space. The guidelines, however, ignore the impacts which placing chairs and tables at street level could have on the residents in such areas, in particular those living in the floors immediately above ground level. Such impacts would primarily be the exposure of residents to secondary cigarette/tobacco smoke as well as noise and odours. The issue of noise will undoubtedly arise, in particular during siesta time, as well as late into the evenings while secondary smoke from cigarettes/tobacco as well as odours will be an ever present nuisance. Maybe if the local councils were not excluded from the inter-Ministerial Committee, these matters would have been taken into consideration.

In such instances it would be necessary to limit the placing of tables and chairs at such a distance from residences where impacts on residents from secondary smoke, noise and odours are insignificant: that is if there is sufficient space.

The guidelines establish that a passageway of 1.50 metres on pavements is to be reserved for pedestrians. In addition they establish that where a permit is requested to place chairs and tables outside third-party property, specific clearance in front of doors and windows is to be observed. Isn’t that thoughtful of the inter-Ministerial Committee? Instead of categorically excluding the placing of chairs and tables along the property of third parties it seeks to facilitate the creation of what would inevitably be a nuisance to the users of such a property. This, too, is the result of the lop-sided composition of the inter-Ministerial Committee.

Nor are parking spaces spared. The inter-Ministerial Committee makes provision in the proposed guidelines for the possibility that catering establishments can also make use of parking spaces for the placing of tables and chairs when other space is insufficient. The guidelines leave no stone unturned in ensuring that tables and chairs get priority, even though this is worded in terms that make it appear that it would be an exception.

Enforcement, as usual, will be another headache. We already have quite a number of cases in various localities where passageways are minimal or inexistent and pedestrians, excluded from walking along the pavement have to move along with the traffic, right in the middle of the road. At times this may prove quite difficult and dangerous, in particular for wheelchair users or in the case of parents with small children. Enforcement to date is practically inexistent and I do not think that matters will change much in this respect.

Unfortunately, MEPA is a repeat offender in ignoring the interests of the residential community when faced with all types of development. The guidelines on the use of public open space by catering establishments are thus more of the same.

While cars have taken over our roads, catering establishments will now be guided on how to take over our pavements and open spaces, parking included!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 13 September 2015  

Il-bankina m’għadhiex tagħna lkoll : saret tagħhom biss

1.50 metres distance

Illum ġie ippubblikat għal konsultazzjoni pubblika dokument dwar il-kriterji li fuqhom jiġu ikkunsidrati permessi għal siġġijiet u mwejjed f’postijiet pubbliċi.

Ħlief għall-one-stop-shop, fis-sustanza ma hemm xejn ġdid fid-dokument għax diġà anke fil-preżent suppost li min għandu permess simili għandu ukoll l-obbligu li jħalli 1.50 metri passaġġ minn fejn jgħaddu n-nies.

Issa kieku jitħallew dan il-metru u nofs il-ħajja tkun iktar faċli għal kulħadd. Imma fil-fatt f’numru ta’ każi ma jitħallewx.

Mur fejn trid f’Malta u Għawdex u għandek issib numru mhux żgħir ta’ każi fejn jekk tipprova tgħaddi mill-ftit spazju li jħallu fuq il-bankina, jħarsulek bl-ikrah. Il-Belt, Tas-Sliema, in-Naxxar u San Pawl il-Baħar issib eżempji kemm trid. Bil-kemm tgħaddi bil-mixi aħseb u ara jekk tkun b’xi siġġu tar-roti inkella b’xi tarbija (fl-idejn jew fil-pram).

Fid-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni jingħad li jkunu ikkunsidrati applikazzjonijiet għall-permessi fil-pjazez u bankini bil-kundizzjoni tal-1.50 metri li għandhom jitħallew passaġġ. Imma meta tibda taqra tibda issib numru ta’ eċċezzjonijiet.

Per eżempju, fid-dokument jingħad li f’xi każijiet, jista’ jkun ikkunsrat li l-permess ma jkunx biss biex jitqegħdu imwejjed fuq il-bankina, imma jistgħu jkunu ikkunsidrati l-ispazji tal-parking ukoll!

Id-dokument fih ħafna logħob bil-kliem, bħall-ħafna dokumenti oħra konnessi mal-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art.

Id-dokument jgħid li d-drittijiet ta’ terzi [third party rights] għandhom ikunu imħarsa meta jinħargu dawn il-permessi. Din hi daħqa oħra għax nafu kemm fil-prattika jiġu mħarsa dawn id-drittijiet mill-awtoritajiet pubbliċi f’Malta.

L-eżerċizzju biex inħareġ dan id-dokument ta’ konsultazzjoni sar bil-koordinazzjoni ta’ Kumitat li kien fih parteċipazzjoni wiesa’ : kien hemm bosta minbarra dawk li huma l-iktar viċin in-nies: ma kien hemm ħadd mill-Kunsilli Lokali. Fil-fatt kien hemm rappreżentanti tal-Ministeru tal-Intern, tal-MEPA, ta’ Transport Malta, tad-Diviżjoni tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern u tal-Awtorità tat-Turiżmu, u l-Assoċjazzjoni tar-Restoranti u l-Lukandi (MHRA).

Il-Kunsilli Lokali u r-residenti ma kienux meqjusa ta’ importanza biex jipparteċipaw f’dan l-eżerċiżżju, bħal dak li qallu li l-bankini, t-toroq, il-parking spaces, u pjażez li ser jieħdu (jew ħadu diga) mhux ir-residenti jagħmlu użu minnhom s’issa. Issa s-siġġijiet u l-imwejjed ser jibdew jingħataw prijorità.

Il-permessi ser jibdew jinħarġu mill-MEPA. Ser jinħareġ bis-sistema ta’ one-stop-shop. Jiġifieri applikazzjoni waħda biss li ma tieħux ħafna żmien biex tkun deċiża. Din hi sistema li tiffavorixxi lin-negozji u dejjem taħdem kontra r-residenti. Għax biex permess joħrog malajr ifisser li ftit li xejn ikun hemm ċans li min ikun effettwat bih isir jaf (jew ikun infurmat).

Insomma nistgħu ngħidu li dan m’hu xejn ġdid. Il-bankina issa m’għadiex tagħna lkoll, ser tkun tagħhom biss.

Political responsibility

 

Mallia inquiry

Good governance is clearly going to the dogs. It is not just a case of matters that could have been handled better, as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated in the aftermath of the Cafè Premier scandal.

In February 2015 the National Audit Office had underlined notable shortcomings in terms of governance with respect to Joseph Muscat’s government’s failure to involve the Government Property Division in the negotiations to re-acquire Cafè Premier in Valletta.

The purpose of holding inquires, irrespective of their format, is not just to identify those responsible for shortcomings relative to matters under investigation. High on the list of objectives of inquires is the identification and subsequent doing away with administrative practices which are liable to be abused.

The Manwel Mallia inquiry, which was commissioned by the Prime Minister in terms of the Inquires Act, was handled by three former judges and focused on the behaviour of the then Honourable Minister Manwel Mallia. It is pertinent to point out that in their report dated 8 December 2014, the three judges had emphasised that Manwel Mallia had to shoulder ministerial or political responsibility in respect of the behaviour of those persons who he had nominated to a position of trust. Tongue-in-cheek, the panel of judges carrying out the Mallia inquiry had commented that Maltese politicians, when in Opposition, emphasise the need to shoulder political responsibility only to forget all about it when they make it to government.

In fact, in view of the conclusions of that inquiry, former Minister Manwel Mallia, in defiance of the basic rules of good governance, refused to resign from office and was subsequently fired by the Prime Minister – who had no other option at his disposal.

The current Gaffarena scandal may lead to similar considerations. Two politicians are under the spotlight: Joseph Muscat, who, in addition to being Prime Minister is also Minister for Lands, and Michael Falzon, who is the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Lands. Both have to shoulder political responsibility for the operation of the Government Property Division for which they are jointly politically responsible. Twenty seven months into Labour’s mandate it is not justifiable that they shift the blame onto their predecessors. Labour in government has had sufficient time to carry out basic operational changes, if they considered that these were necessary.

Two inquires are under way. One has been requested by the Opposition and is being carried out by the National Audit Office. The other has been requested by the government and is being carried out by the Internal Audit and Investigation Department.

The two inquires will necessarily overlap but, due to differing terms of reference they should be complimenting each other.

There are too many coincidences in this latest Gaffarena scandal and consequently various issues need to be explained. The Government Property Division seems to have preferred Marco Gaffarena, giving him time to purchase a second portion of the Valletta property before expropriating it, when it could have easily expropriated it directly from the then owners! Likewise, it is clear that someone took the decision to pay Marco Gaffarena partly in kind, by allowing him to select amongst government property that land which suited him most. Who took this decision?  The civil service does not normally take such decisions. This particular decision, in my view, has political fingerprints.

The values attributed to both the expropriated property and to the government properties used to facilitate payment have raised eyebrows. Detailed explanation is required to establish whether there is some computational error or whether there is some other explanation.

Throughout the past week, the press has pointed at a particular member of the private secretariat of Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon who, too often, was observed accompanying Marco Gaffarena at the Government Property Division. This person, appointed in a position of trust by the Honourable Michael Falzon, did not reply to questions from the press intended to clarify whether – and to what extent – he opened doors for Gaffarena. In particular, the queries sought to clarify whether he facilitated the pick and choose land deal between the Government Property Division and Marco Gaffarena.

The conclusions of the two investigations should undoubtedly shed light on the decisions taken, as well as on those who facilitated them. The fact that this is the second case concerning the Government Property Division being investigated by the National Audit Office in the space of a few months should ring the alarm bells because, essentially, it signifies that no lessons were learnt from the Cafè Premier debacle.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 14 June 2015

Il-Cafè Premier: min jgħaġġel u min ikaxkar saqajh

NAO.Premier

 

Meta tifli sewwa r-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika dwar il-Cafè Premier joħorġu ċari numru ta’ punti.

Joseph Muscat, issa qed jaċċetta li għaġġel. “Muscat admits Government rushed on €4.2 million Cafè Premier deal” tgħidilna l-Malta Today online tal-bieraħ il-Ħadd 1 ta’ Marzu. Il-mistoqsija li teħtieġ tweġiba hi għaliex għaġġel? Min jew x’kellu jiġri warajh?

Huwa minħabba li ried jgħaġġel illi żamm kontroll fuq it-taħditiet taħt l-uffiċċju tiegħu? Għaliex fl-iktar żmien kruċjali tat-taħditiet ma involviex lid-Dipartiment li jieħu ħsieb l-amministrazzjoni tal-propjetà tal-Gvern? Dan il-fatt waħdu huwa sinifikanti u jagħti indikazzjoni li d-deċiżjoni, tal-inqas fil-prinċipju, kienet ilha lesta ferm qabel il-bidu t’April 2013 meta bdew id-diskussjonijiet madwar 4 ġimgħat wara li nbidel il-Gvern.

Ir-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika jgħidilna li qabel ma bdew id-diskussjonijiet ma’ Joseph Muscat, Mario Camilleri ta’ Cities Entertainment Limited kien qed jiddiskuti ma’ negozjant ieħor li ukoll kien offrielu €4.2 miljuni. Imma ma ftehmux għax Mario Camilleri dehrlu li Cities Entertainment Limited kien ħaqqha iktar. Fil-fatt huwa kien talab €5.37 miljuni. Mit-Times tas-Sibt sirna nafu illi l-offerta kienet saret mingħand Anġlu Xuereb li ma kienx lest li joffri iktar minn €4.2 miljuni .

Jekk il-problema setgħet issolviet bl-involviment tas-settur privat, il-mistoqsija li toħroġ waħedha hi għaliex intużaw €4.2 miljuni mit-taxxi? Din it-tweġiba ma jista’ jagħtiha ħadd ħlief il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat.

Jista’ jkun hemm min jgħid li dan sar biex titneħħa kċina minn taħt il-Biblioteka u b’hekk jitneħħa sors ta’ periklu kbir taħt teżor nazzjonali. Min jgħid hekk forsi ma jafx li l-kuntratt oriġinali ma Cities Entertainment Limited iffirmat fl-1998 kien jipprojibixxi li jintużaw ċilindri tal-gass fuq is-sit. Forsi l-anqas ma jaf li kċina fis-sit li taħdem bl-elettriku hi ta’ periklu ferm inqas mid-diversi ħwienet tal-ħwejjeġ li hemm taħt il-Biblioteka u li b’short circuit fis-sistema tal-elettriku huma ukoll sors kontinwu ta’ periklu daqs jekk mhux iżjed minn kċina li taħdem bl-elettriku.  Għax b’short circuit fis-sistema tal-elettriku il-ħwejjeġ jaqbdu ferm iktar malajr mill-affarijiet li normalment insibu fi kċina! U in-nar li jirriżulta jinfirex iktar malajr.

It-Taqsima tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern, kif inhu ddokumentat fir-rapport tal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika, damet ftit ittella’ u tniżżel sakemm fl-aħħar iddeċidiet li tibda proċeduri fil-Qorti biex ikun xolt il-kuntratt. Fl-2004 kien diġa beda jberraq. Fl-4 t’April 2006 ġiet ippreżentata ittra uffiċjali biex titħallas il-kera li kienet b’lura. Wara ħafna tiġbid u xi pagamenti  s-sitwazzjoni irranġat għal ftit, sakemm nhar il-5 ta’ Mejju 2009 reġgħet ġiet ippreżentata ittra uffiċjali oħra dwar il-kera li kienet għad ma tħallsitx. Wara dan baqgħu daqqa jifthemu u wara ftit jerġgħu jaqgħu lura fil-ħlas. Sakemm fl-2012 ittieħdu passi legali mill-Gvern.

Kien ikun ħafna iktar għaqli kieku għaxar snin ilu ittieħdu l-passi biex ikun xolt il-kuntratt. Kieku sal-lum bla dubju l-Cafè Premier ilu li ġie f’idejn il-Gvern mingħajr ma tħallas ċenteżmu wieħed mit-taxxi tagħna.

Għalhekk hi ġustifikata l-konklużjoni tal-Awditur Ġenerali li ma ġewx esplorati biżżejjed possibilitajiet oħra li setgħu solvew il-problema.

Bla dubju għal dan kollu għandu responsabbilta’ kbira Joseph Muscat li kif ammetta illum, għaġġel. Imma għandu responsabbiltà ukoll Jason Azzopardi li sad-9 ta’ Marzu 2013 bħala Ministru kellu responsabbilta politika għat-Taqsima tal-Propjeta tal-Gvern li kaxkret saqajha biex tieħu l-passi li kienu neċessarji.

Wieħed għaġġel u l-ieħor ikaxkar saqajh.