Il-Mafja fl-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru

 

Mix-xhieda ta’ Melvin Theuma, li nstemgħet dal-għodu, joħorġu ħafna ismijiet ta’ peruni li kienu fil-Berġa ta’ Kastilja.

Mhux biss Keith imma issa ukoll Sandro Craus u “Kenneth” mis-servizz tas-sigurtà li kien assenjat ma Keith Schembri.

Il-miljuni qieshom żerriegħa tal-ħarrub.

Jidher li l-Mafja li qatlet lil Daphne għandha assoċjazzjoni mill-qrib mal-Berġa ta’ Kastilja. Ftit ftit il-provi qed iqarrbu lejn dak li ħafna ilhom jissuspettaw. Imma biex ikollna l-istampa kollha rridu nisimgħu l-provi kollha.

Żomm ‘il-bogħod mill-investigazzjoni

Il-familja Caruana Galizia għandha raġun li tinsisti illi l-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat jeħtieg li jżomm ‘il-bogħod mill-investigazzjoni kriminali dwar l-assassinju ta’ Daphne.

Il-kummentarju kontinwu tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat dwar l-investigazzjoni kriminali għandha tinkwetana ilkoll.

Matul din il-ġimgħa huwa għamel numru ta’ dikjarazzjonijiet inkwetanti li jindikaw bl-iktar mod ċar illi kien qed ikun infurmat b’mod immedjat dwar dak li jkun għaddej waqt l-interrogazzjonijiet.

Dan hu aġir abbużiv u jista’ jkollu konsegwenzi gravi, inkluż t-tħarbit tal-investigazzjoni nnifisha.

Ġejna nfurmati minn Joseph Muscat li l-informazzjoni li wasslet għall-arrest ta’ Yorgen Fenech ma ġietx mill-intermedjarju imma li l-Pulizija kienu ilhom li waslu għaliha. Infurmana ukoll li l-intermedjarju għadu ma svelax biżżejjed informazzjoni. Biżżejjed jiġifieri, biex din l-informazzjoni tkun tista’ twassal ħalli l-investigazzjoni tkun konkluża u dawk kollha responsabbli għall-ippjanar u l-esekuzzjoni tal-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia jkun possibli li kollha kemm huma jieħdu dak li ħaqqhom.

Iktar kmieni, huwa u jwieġeb mistoqsija ta’ ġurnalista, Joseph Muscat żvela li “s’issa”, l-ebda politiku ma kien identifikat bħala “persuna li hi ta’ interess” għall-investigazzjoni kriminali. Din bla dubju żelqitlu. Probabbilment hu nkwetat li din il-possibilità tista’ titfaċċa iktar tard meta l-investigazzjoni tkun żviluppat ftit ieħor. Jittama li dan ma jseħħx. Imma l-movimenti tiegħu (body language) iwasslu messaġġ iktar qawwi minn kliemu dwar din il-possibilità.

Muscat qal li jaf ferm iktar minn dak li qal sa issa, imma li qagħad lura għal dawn l-aħħar 24 xahar. Għamel sforz kbir mid-dehra, probabbilment għax hekk kien jaqbillu.

Min hu inkarigat mill-interrogazzjonijiet fil-Kwartieri Ġenerali tal-Pulizija: il-Kummissarju Lawrence Cutajar jew il-Kummissarju Joseph Muscat?

Diversi mezzi tal-aħbarijiet qed jiżvelaw biċċiet ta’ informazzjoni li qed jindikaw illi l-intermedjarju huwa s-sors potenzjali ta’ minjiera ta’ informazzjoni addizzionali ta’ importanza kbira li tista’ tissiġilla l-każ. Dan jidher li ftit ser iħalli possibiltajiet lil min ikun jixtieq jilgħab.

Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, il-Pulizija issa ma tantx baqagħalhom skużi biex jimxu bil-mod. Għax kif tista’ tispjega dak li qed jgħid il-Prim Ministru li qabel ma tfaċċa l-intermedjarju l-kaz kien diġa ċar għall-investigaturi meta huwa issa, wara dan iż-żmien kollu li bdew jiċċaqalqu ftit biex joqorbu lejn konklużjoni tal-kaz?

Dan il-punt jagħmlu ukoll Pieter Omtzigt, ir-rapporteur tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa dwar l-assassinju ta’ Daphne li ġie ikkwotat jgħid li “Għaliex ix-xhieda tal-intermedjarju l-ewwel tiġġustifika l-proklama imbagħad il-Prim Ministru jgħid li din ma kienitx meħtieġa biex ikun arrestat Fenech?” Din l-osservazzjoni ta’ Omtzigt hi konklużjoni loġika u inevitabbli li tasal għaliha wara li tgħarbel dak li qal il-Prim Ministru li appunta lilu innifsu bħala l-kelliem għall-investigaturi.

Il-Prim Ministru għandu l-obbligu li jassigura illi l-investigazzjoni tkun imħarsa u mhux imfixkla. F’dan il-mument, bħala riżultat tal-interventi pubbliċi tiegħu dwar l-investigazzjoni, huwa l-ikbar theddida biex l-investigazzjoni tkun imfixkla f’xogħolha.

Dan kollu jwassal għal mistoqsija waħda: lil min qed jipprova iħares?

Hu possibli li qed iħares l-interessi tiegħu stess, jekk mhux ukoll ta’ dawk ta’ madwaru li wħud minnhom jidhru inkwetati sew. F’investigazzjoni normali u bla tfixkil dawk kollha li Daphne kitbet dwarhom huma l-ewwel suspettati li jeħtieg li jkun investigati.

Għalhekk, sur Prim Ministru, żomm il-bogħod mill-investigazzjoni.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 24 ta’ Novembru 2019

 

Riflessjoni fuq ġimgħa tal-biża’

Din kienet ġimgħa tal-biża’. F’daqqa waħda tant kien hemm żviluppi fl-investigazzjoni dwar il-qtil ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia li bil-fors tissuspetta li hemm xi ħaġa ħażina.

Ħażina fis-sens li parti mdaqqsa mill-informazzjoni meħtieġa jidher li kienet magħrufa u ma ttieħdet l-ebda azzjoni dwarha.

Il-Prim Ministru qal żewġ affarijiet importanti ħafna. Qal li jaf ħafna affarijiet li dwarhom ser iżomm fommu sieket għalissa. Qal ukoll li biex sar l-arrest ta’ Yorgen Fenech ma kienx hemm ħtieġa tal-informazzjoni mingħand Melvin Theuma l-middleman biex din tkun tista’ isseħħ.

Waħedha toħroġ il-mistoqsija dwar x’kien qed iżomm lill-Pulizija milli jaġixxu, jekk kif qal Joseph Muscat kellhom biżżejjed informazzjoni.

Għalfejn ma ħadux passi jekk ilhom jafu? Il-biża’ ta’ ħafna hi li kellhom l-indħil u li issa li daħlu fl-istorja l-Europol, il-pulizija setgħu fl-aħħar jiċċaqalqu. X’kien qed iżommhom?

Hemm responsabbilta politika x’tintrefa dwar dan. Din ukoll fuq spallejn Joseph Muscat.

Hands off the investigation

The Caruana-Galizia family is right to  insist that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should keep his distance from the criminal investigation into the assassination of Daphne.

We should be very worried about Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s running commentary on this investigation. This week he made a number of worrying declarations which clearly indicate that he is being informed in real time regarding the proceedings in the police interrogation rooms. This is downright abusive and could have very serious consequences, including the derailing of the investigation.

We were informed by Joseph Muscat that the information that led to the arrest of Yorgen Fenech did not come from the middleman. He further informed us that the middleman has not yet revealed enough information – enough, that is, to conclude the investigation and arraign all those responsible for master-minding and carrying out the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Earlier, in answer to a journalist’s question, he had revealed that “so far” no political person has been identified as a “person of interest” to the criminal investigation. Is this a Freudian slip? Most probably he is worried about the distinct possibility that such an identification could materialise later – when the investigation has matured sufficiently -and he is keeping his fingers crossed. His body language says much more than the words he uttered.

Muscat said that he knows much more, but that he has been keeping back from revealing everything for the past 24 months. Apparently, he has made quite an effort to keep his mouth shut – most probably because it suited him.

Who is in charge in the interrogation rooms at the Floriana Police Headquarters? Why has the Commissioner of Police relinquished his lead of the Police Corps? Is it Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar or is it Commissioner Joseph Muscat who is in charge of the Police and in particular its criminal investigation on Daphne’s assassination?

Various media outlets are revealing titbits of information which seem to indicate that the identification of the middleman as a potential source of additional information of considerable importance seems to have placed the police authorities in a very tight corner. As a result, the Police have no option but to now proceed at a very fast pace. How could one otherwise explain the Prime Minister’s emphasising that the Police authorities already had a solid case before the advent of the middleman?

This is a point also made by Pieter Omtzigt, the Council of Europe rapporteur for the Daphne assassination, who was quoted as saying: “Why was (the middleman’s) evidence worth a pardon one day, only for the PM to then say it was not needed for Fenech’s arrest?” This Omtzigt quote is the logical conclusion to which one inevitably arrives after digesting the Prime Minister’s interventions as the self-appointed spokesman for the police investigators! The Prime Minister has a duty to ensure that the investigation is not derailed, but at this point in time – as a result of his public interventions regarding the investigation – he is the greatest threat to this happening. This leads to one simple question: whom is he trying to shield?

He could be shielding even himself, if not the obvious ones close to him. In any normal unfettered police investigation, all those about whom Daphne wrote would be suspects from the outset.

Hands off the investigation.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 November 2019

Il-Korruzzjoni m’għandhiex kulur

Id-dibattitu dwar il-korruzzjoni fil-gżejjer Maltin ma jispiċċa qatt. Il-korruzzjoni m’għandhiex kulur u tiddependi ħafna fuq kultura ta’ klijenteliżmu u fuq istituzzjonijiet dgħajfa jew imdgħajfa. Sfortunatament, ma teżisti l-ebda rieda politika biex dan ikun indirizzat.

Ma tidher l-ebda azzjoni ċara u konkreta li tikkorrispondi mad-diskors pubbliku u ma jaqta’ xejn dwar tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni.

Ir-resistenza tal-Ministri Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi u Chris Cardona biex tinfetaħ inkjesta kriminali minn maġistrat dwar l-allegazzjonijiet tal-kompliċità kriminali tagħhom in konnessjoni mal-ftehim tal-Vitals Global Healthcare dwar l-isptarijiet ma tinftiehemx. Prim Ministru b’tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni kien jitlob l-inkjesta hu stess. Inkella kien ikun minn ta’ quddiem biex jappoġġja t-talba li saret.

Kieku l-Partit Laburista kellu tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni ilu li bagħat lil Konrad Mizzi u lil Keith Schembri jixxejru. Il-fatt li l-mexxej Laburista Joseph Muscat ma aġixxiex b’dan il-mod ifisser li hu dispost li jagħlaq għajnejh għall-irregolaritajiet li jagħmlu ta’ madwaru. F’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi, Partit Laburista b’tolleranza żero għall-korruzzjoni kien jiġbed widnejn il-mexxej tiegħu u jwissieh li jiemu magħduda jekk ma jibdilx triqtu. Il-fatt li l-Partit Laburista ma għamel xejn minn dan ifisser ħaġa waħda: li korruzzjoni hi tollerata.

Ikun għaqli jekk niftakru illi fl-istadji inizzjali tal-iskandlu magħruf bħala Panama Papers diversi membri tal-Grupp Parlamentari tal-Partit Laburista irreaġixxew għal dan kollu bil-bibien magħluqa.

F’April u Mejju tal-2016 kienet ħarġet l-istorja li mhux il-Partit Laburista kollu hu illuppjata dwar allegazzjonijiet ta’ korruzzjoni. Id-dibattitu intern, kif irrappurtat fil-medja, kien imqanqal, imma ma wassal għall-ebda azzjoni konkreta.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista, għalkemm fl-Opposizzjoni, ma jistax ikun alternattiva għal dan għax minkejja li l-kritika tiegħu hi korretta mhuwiex kredibbli.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista eleġġa mexxej li ftit li xejn jispira fiduċja fost il-pubbliku. Primarjament dan hu minħabba l-informazzjoni li toħroġ minn rapporti investigattivi dwaru ppubblikati minn Daphne Caruana Galizia, informazzjoni li turi kif diversi drabi ma aġixxiex b’mod korrett. Il-politku ma’ għandux il-possibilità li jagħżel meta jixgħel is-switch tal-imġieba etika. L-imġieba tal-politiku meta ma jkunx taħt il-lenti tal-opinjoni pubblika hi l-iktar indikattiva dwar x’isarraf. Il-kaz ta’ klijenti tal-uffiċju legali ta’ Adrian Delia li bbenefikaw minn dħul minn briedel f’Londra huwa eżempju prattiku ta’ dan. Meta l-informazzjoni kienet ippubblikata Delia fetaħ libell imma wara mhux biss irtirah imma ma ħa l-ebda passi alternattivi biex jisganċa ruħu minn dak li ntqal bl-iswed fuq l-abjad dwaru.

L-istess għandu jingħad dwar ix-xhieda ġuramentata tad-Deputat Nazzjonalista Claudio Grech dwar l-iskandlu taż-żejt liema xhieda ngħatat quddiem il-Kumitat Parlamentari għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi. Dakinnhar Grech qal li ma kienx jiftakar jekk qatt iltaqa’ ma’ George Farrugia, il-moħħ wara l-iskandlu u li wara ngħata l-maħfra biex jikxef kollox. Il-Kap tal-PN ta’ dakinnhar, Simon Busuttil, bl-ebda mod ma rreaġixxa għal din l-imġieba. Ma ttieħdu l-ebda passi kontra Claudio Grech mill-PN f’dan il-kaz li bosta jqisuh bħala li pprova jevita li jikxef informazzjoni ta’ relevanza għal għarfien aħjar ta’ fatti tal-iskandlu.

Fid-dawl ta’ nuqqas ta’ kredibilità, meta l-Opposizzjoni Parlamentari (kif kostitwita illum) titkellem, l-impatt ta’ dak li tgħid bi kritika tal-Gvern ftit hu effetttiv.

Dan nistgħu narawh ukoll fid-dawl ta’ każi ta’ governanza ħażina li jikkomunikaw messaġġ wieħed: il-PL u l-PN huma pezza waħda. Eżempju ċar ta’ dan hu l-kaz tal-involviment ta’ Mario Demarco fin-negozjati kuntrattwali tad-dB fil-kwalità tiegħu ta’ konsulent legali tal-Grupp dB, meta fl-istess ħin kien Viċi Kap tal-Opposizzjoni u kelliemi għall-Finanzi. Għalkemm Mario Demarco għamel apoloġija pubblika dwar dan meta l-qiegħa kienet saħnet, il-ħsara li seħħet kienet sostanzjali. Il-messaġġ ċar li ġie kkomunikat dakinnhar kien li l-aħjar elementi tal-Opposizzjoni Parlamentari ma kinux kapaċi jiddistingwu bejn l-obbligi pubbliċi u l-interessi privati tagħhom.

Ikun opportun ukoll li niftakru fid-diversi rapporti tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar abbuż minn propjetà pubblika meta din kienet responsabbiltà politika tad-deputat Jason Azzopardi. Il-PN fl-ebda ħin ma esiġa li Azzopardi jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà politika għall-frejjeġ li ħalla warajh.

Il-governanza ħażina u l-korruzzjoni huma kuġini. Waħda twassal għall-oħra. Xi minn daqqiet hemm min jitfixkel waħda mal-oħra.

Alternattiva Demokratika dejjem kienet ċara. Dejjem kellna tolleranza żero kemm għall-korruzzjoni kif ukoll għall-governanza ħażina. Sfortunatament, la l-PN u l-anqas il-PL ma jistgħu jgħidu l-istess.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd 17 ta’ Novembru 2019

 

 

 

Corruption is colour-blind

The debate on local corruption is never-ending. Corruption is colour-blind and is heavily dependent upon a clientelist culture, as well as on the existence of weak or weakened institutions. In addition, unfortunately, there is currently no political will to address either.

The never-ending public utterances on zero-tolerance to corruption are not matched with clear-cut action.

The resistance by Cabinet Ministers Edward Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona to the initiation of a magisterial criminal inquiry into the allegation concerning their criminal complicity in the Vitals Global Healthcare Hospitals deal is mind-boggling. A Prime Minister with a zero-tolerance to corruption would have requested the inquiry himself. Alternatively, he should have been the first to support the NGO-requested investigation.

A Labour Party which has a zero-tolerance to corruption would have sent Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri packing ages ago. The fact that Labour leader Joseph Muscat did not so act signifies that he is willing to turn a Nelson eye to his colleagues’ misdemeanours. In these circumstances a corruption zero-tolerant Labour Party would have given notice to its leader that his days are numbered if he does not change his ways. The fact that the Labour Party did not so act gives one clear message: it is corruption-tolerant.

It would be pertinent to point out that, in the initial stages of the Panama Papers debate, various members of the Labour Party Parliamentary group reacted behind closed doors. Way back in April and May of 2016, leaks in the media had indicated that not all of the Labour Party is anesthetised in its reactions to allegations of corruption. The internal debate, as then reported, was fierce, but it did not lead to concrete action.

The Nationalist Party, although in opposition, is no alternative to all this, as its criticism, though correct, is not credible.

The Nationalist Party has elected a leader who does not inspire much confidence in the public, primarily as a result of the investigative reports published by Daphne Caruana Galizia which unearthed information that illustrated the various instances in which he acted unethically. Holders of political office have no choice as to when to switch on to an ethical behaviour mode. Their behaviour when they were not under the glaring spotlight of public opinion is most indicative of their ethical worth. A case in point is Adrian Delia’s legal representation of clients benefitting from earnings from London-based brothels in respect of which published information he instituted legal action that he later withdrew. Subsequently he took no action which disproves anything that was published about this brothel business.

Likewise, no action was taken in respect of the sworn testimony of senior PN Member of Parliament Claudio Grech when giving witness in front of the Public Accounts Committee in its inquiry on the oil scandal. Grech had then stated that he did not recollect if he had ever met George Farrugia, the prime mover in the oil scandal, who was eventually pardoned to reveal all. The then PN leader, Simon Busuttil, had not reacted to this behaviour and no action whatsoever was initiated against Claudio Grech by the PN in what most consider a case of avoiding spilling information of relevance.

In view of its lack of credibility, whenever the Parliamentary Opposition – as presently constituted- speaks up, the impact of what has been revealed about Government’s dubious practices is severely diluted.

This could be viewed also with reference to serious issues of bad governance which communicate one clear message: they are cut from the same cloth. A case in point is Mario Demarco’s involvement in the dB contract negotiations as legal advisor to the dB Group, at a time when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition and its spokesperson on Finance. Though Mario Demarco issued a public apology when the matter made headlines, the damage done was substantial. The clear message conveyed was that the better elements of the Parliamentary Opposition are incapable of drawing a line between their public duties and their private interests.

We may also deem it fit to remember the various reports issued by the Auditor-General on the mis-management of government property. At the time, this was the political responsibility of the Hon Jason Azzopardi but at no time was he asked by his party to shoulder political responsibility for the mess that he left behind.

Bad governance and corruption are cousins; one leads to the other and at times one is easily mistaken for the other.

At Alternattiva Demokratika we have always been clear: we are zero-tolerant in respect of both corruption and bad governance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the PN and the PL.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 November 2019

Keith Schembri: mhux waħdu

Nhar it-Tnejn, Keith Schembri rtira kawża ta’ libell kontra Simon Busuttil. Kawża li infetħet għax Simon Busuttil qal li Keith Schembri hu korrott.

Il-konsegwenza loġika u ovvja issa hi li Keith Schembri mhux jiddejjaq li hu jkun deskritt li hu korrott. Naħseb li ma hemm l-ebda mod ieħor kif tħares lejn il-materja. Iddur kemm iddur b’argumenti legali, din hi l-unika konklużjoni li tagħmel sens. Miskin, beża’ li jinkrimina ruħu.

Din min naħa l-oħra twassal għal konsiderazzjoni waħda bażika: il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat ma għamel xejn wara dan kollu. Allura ifisser li anke Joseph Muscat mhux jiddejjaq li ċ-Chief of Staff tal-uffiċċju tiegħu ma baqax jinsisti għas-sodisfazzjon mingħand min iddeskrivieh li hu korrott.

F’kull pajjiż iċċivilizzat Keith Schembri kien jitneħħa immedjatament mill-karigi pubbliċi kollha li jokkupa. Ovvjament dan mhux ser iseħħ. Għax Keith Schembri mhux waħdu.

Il-Partit Laburista baqa’ sieket: ħasra għax naf ħafna Laburisti li xejn ma jaqblu ma dan.

Min ma jiġġilidx kontra l-korruzzjoni hu korrott huwa ukoll. Dan qatt ma kien ċar daqs illum.

Anke l-Partit Laburista irid jerfa’ l-piz li ser ikollu jġorr minħabba s-skiet tiegħu.

Kunflitt ta’interess fl-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar

Il-validità tal-permess tal-ippjanar dwar il-proġett tad-dB f’Pembroke ġie ikkontestat fuq bażi ta’ tmintax-il raġuni differenti, li jvarjaw minn kunflitt ta’ interess sa miżinterpretazzjoni u/jew applikazzjoni żbaljata tar-regoli dwar l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art.

F’dan l-istadju, l-Qorti hi hu tħassar il-permess dehrilha li ma kienx neċessarju li tidħol fid-dettall dwar kull waħda minn minn dawn it-tminatax-il raġuni: waqfet fl-ewwel waħda, il-kunflitt ta’ interess tal-membru tal-Bord tal-Ippjanar Matthew Pace u l-interess tiegħu f’aġenzija li ġġib il-quddiem il-negozju tal-propjetà. Żewġ interessi li b’mod ovvju, għal kulħadd ħlief għal Pace, l-Awtorità u l-Gvern, ġie meqjus li huma konfliġġenti. L-aġenzija li fiha Matthew Pace għandu interess kienet diġa qed tirreklama l-bejgħ tal-appartamenti sa minn qabel mal-permess tal-ippjanar ġie approvat, bil-vot tiegħu stess favur l-applikazzjoni.

Il-Qorti użat il-frażijiet “kunflitt ta’ interess” u “nuqqas ta’ trasparenza”. Fl-aħħar mill-aħħar, imma, b’Malti sempliċi u li jinftiehem mill-ewwel dan hu kaz ta’ regħba da parti tal-membru tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li hu nvolut kif ukoll inkompetenza grassa da parti ta’ dawk li ħatruh fuq l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar meta l-interessi tiegħu kienu diġà magħrufa.

Ilkoll nafu li l-membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jinħatru direttament mill-Prim Ministru, u allura ma nistgħux inkunu iktar ċari minn hekk: huwa u jaħtar lil Matthew Pace bħala membru tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, il-Prim Ministru naqas milli jifhem il-konsegwenzi tal-ħatra ta’ agent tal-propjetà fuq il-bord li jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet dwar l-ippjanar tal-użu tal-art.

Nhar it-Tlieta, l-Qorti annullat deċiżjoni waħda tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li fiha ipparteċipa Matthew Pace. Kemm ilu li nħatar fuq il-Bord, sa mill-2013, Matthew Pace, ħa sehem f’numru sostanzjali ta’ deċiżjonijiet oħra li ttieħdu mill-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar. Il-mistoqsija loġika hi dwar il-każi l-oħra li dwarhom ukoll kellu interess u li anke hawn dan l-interess ma ġiex iddikjarat. In-numru ta’ każi kontroversjali deċiżi mhux żgħir imma din il-mistoqsija qatt ma saret s’issa, ta’ l-inqas fil-pubbliku.

Il-każ, kif emfasizzat il-Qorti, hu wieħed li jiffoka fuq l-imġieba ta’ dawk li jokkupaw ħatra pubblika.

Il-membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar għandhom l-obbligu li jissottomettu dikjarazzjioni annwali dwar l-assi u l-interessi tagħhom. Ikun ferm interessanti kieku l-pubbliku jkollu informazzjoni preċiża dwar x’sar mid-dikjarazzjonijiet tal-membri kurrenti tal-Bord. Is-Segretarju tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, huwa u jixhed quddiem it-Tribunal ta’ Reviżjoni dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar qal li dawn id-dikjarazzjonijiet ma setgħux jintbagħtu, kif suppost, lill-Awditur Ġenerali, għax dawn ma ġewx aċċettati min-naħa tiegħu. Imma, jirriżulta minn tweġibiet elettroniċi tal-Awditur Ġenerali, li wkoll ġew ippreżentati bħala xhieda, li dan mhux il-kaz: l-Awditur Ġenerali qatt ma irrifjuta li jaċċetta dawn id-dikjarazzjonijiet dwar l-assi u l-interessi tal-membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar.

Minn dan kollu jqum il-punt dwar kemm huma effettivi l-kontrolli stabiliti mil-liġi dwar il-posizzjoni etika ta’ dawk maħtura bħala membri tal-Bord. Id-dikjarazzjoni tal-assi u l-interessi, sal-lum meqjusa bħala għodda importanti qiesha saret ta’ bla ebda siwi u dan minħabba li wara li ġiet sottomessa ma kienitx eżaminata mill-Awditur Ġenerali. Dan iħarbat il-proċess kollu ta’ kontroll, għax hu ovvju li l-Awditur Ġenerali ġie ostakolat milli jeżamina d-dikjarazzjonijiet li saru u għaldaqstant ma setax jiġbed l-attenzjoni għall-konflitti ovvji li jirriżultaw meta taħtar agent tal-propjetà biex jiddeċiedi fuq materji dwar l-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art.

Nittama li l-Awditur Ġenerali, anke issa, jipprova jirrimedja billi jeżamina d-dikjarazzjonijiet li saru ħalli l-kontrolli jkunu applikati sakemm u safejn hu umanament possibli.

L-ippjanar għall-użu tal-art hu diġa, minnu innifsu, kontroversjali, għax kważi dejjem jinvolvi numru mhux żgħir ta’ interessi konfliġġenti. Tal-inqas għandna nassiguraw li dawk maħtura biex jiddeċiedu jimxu bir-reqqa.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 23 ta’Ġunju 2019

Managing conflict of interest at the Planning Authority

The validity of the planning permit in respect of the dB project at Pembroke has been contested on the basis of eighteen different reasons, ranging from conflict of interest to misinterpretation and/or wrongful application of land use planning policy.

In its decision, declaring the dB Pembroke permit null and void earlier this week, the Court did not consider it necessary, at this stage, to delve into each and every one of these 18 reasons: it stopped at the first one: the conflict of interest of one member of the Planning Board, Matthew Pace, whose interest in an estate agency was found to be an obvious no-go area. Apparently the conflict is obvious to everyone, except Pace, the Authority and Government. Even before the final planning decision, his estate agency was already advertising the sale of the apartments – the construction of which was yet to be approved –  with the support of his vote.

The legal terms used in the Court decision are “conflict of interest” and “lack of transparency”. In the end, however, it all boils down to greed on the part of the Planning Authority Board Member and consequently gross incompetence on the part of those appointing him as a member of the Planning Authority Board when his interests were well known.

We all know that the PA Board members are appointed directly by the Prime Minister, so I cannot be clearer than this: in the appointment of Matthew Pace as a member of the Planning Authority Board, the Prime Minister failed to understand the implications of appointing an estate agent as a land-use planning decision-taker.

Last Tuesday, the Court annulled one planning decision in which Matthew Pace had participated. Since his appointment as a member of the Planning Authority Board in 2013, Matthew Pace has participated in a large number of planning decisions. The logical question to ask is in what other cases did he have a conflict of interest that was also not declared. There is a countless list of controversial cases decided upon over the years, but this issue has never arisen, at least not in public.

The case, as emphasised by the Court in its decision, is one that puts the focus on the behaviour of those appointed to public office.

The members of the Board of the Planning Authority are duty bound to submit an annual declaration regarding their assets and interests . It would be interesting if reliable information was available regarding what has happened to the declarations submitted by the current Board members. The Secretary of the Planning Authority Board, when giving evidence at the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, stated that these declarations could not be sent – as required – to the Auditor General, as they were not accepted at that end. However, it is known from replies to emails by the Auditor General, also presented as evidence, that this is not the case.

This raises the serious question as to the effectiveness of the checks required by law on the ethical suitability of the Board members. One such tool – the declaration of assets and interests – has been rendered useless as clearly it is not being examined by the Auditor General when submitted. This stultifies the whole process as the Auditor General was obviously impeded from examining the declarations made and, consequently, could not draw attention to the obvious conflicts arising as a result of having an estate agent appointed to make decisions regarding land-use planning applications.

It is hoped that, even at this late stage, the Auditor General will consider it appropriate to examine the matter in order that adequate checks are as effective as is humanly possible. Land-use planning will always be controversial because it involves numerous conflicting interests. The least we can do is to ensure that those entrusted with taking these decisions act correctly.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 23 June 2019

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