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

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Salvu Balzan u meta tiċċaqlaq id-dubbiena

Saviour Balzan

Ix-xhieda ta’ Salvu Balzan quddiem il-Kumitat għall-kontijiet pubbliċi tagħti l-istampa l-kbira tax-xibka mifruxa madwar il-Korporazzjoni Enemalta dwar l-iskandlu tax-xiri taż-żejt.

Hemm numru ta’ osservazzjonijiet validi ħafna li jagħmel Salvu Balzan.

L-osservazzjoni prinċipali hi bla dubju immirata lejn dawk li qatt ma jkunu jafu xejn meta għandhom il-fama li anke meta tiċċaqlaq dubbiena jkun jafu, kemm x’ħin kif ukoll għaliex tkun iċċaqalqet.

Huma interessanti l-kliem attribwiti lil George Farrugia fis-sens li jekk jinkixef il-każ jaqa’ l-Gvern. Fil-fatt il-Gvern kien diġa moribond meta inkixef il-każ u bla dubju li kieku l-każ inkixef qabel il-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi kien ikollu diffikultajiet ferm iktar milli kellu matul l-aħħar ftit xhur tal-eżistenza tiegħu.

Il-każ tal-ħlas ta’ €5 miljuni kumpens lix-Shell f’Malta minħabba l-ostakli għas-suq tal-fuel tal-avjazzjoni iqajjem żewg punti ta’ importanza kbira. Dan il-każ kien il-bozza l-ħamra għal min kien qiegħed imexxi . Kienet indikazzjoni  li kien hemm xi ħaġa mhux f’postha. Iktar inkwetanti hu s-sehem ta’ Simon Busuttil, meta kien Membru tal-Parlament Ewropew, bħala konsulent legali tax-Shell fin-negozjati mal-Gvern Malti dwar il-likwidazzjoni tad-danni li sofrew. Is-sehem tiegħu jixegħel bożża ħamra oħra dwar kemm jintqal ħafna paroli dwar l-etika imma fis-siegħa tal-prova donnu jintesa kollox.

Meta tqis kollox jibqa’ l-fatt li hemm dubju serju kemm kien jagħmel sens li George Farrugia jingħata l-maħfra presidenzjali.

Nota:

Inġibdet l-attenzjoni tiegħi li b’referenza għax-xhieda ta’ Salvu Balzan fil-Kumitat għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi tal-Parlament, u kif anke ippubblikata fil-Malta Today online, l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni bagħat risposta għall-pubblikazzjoni. Qed nippubblika jiena ukoll din ir-risposta in vista tal-kummenti tiegħi ta’ hawn fuq:

Simon Busuttil right of reply 061115

Claudio Grech u l-emails tal-Malta Today

claudio grech 111015

Dak li ġie rappurtat il-bierah mill-Malta Today, u iktar tard fuq mezzi oħra, hu inkwetanti. Qed ikun emfasizzat li hemm konflitt bejn dak li xehed Claudio Grech fil-Kumitat għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi u l-kontenut ta’ emails li ġew ippubblikati mill-Malta Today. Dawn l-emails immorru lura anke 9 snin.

Claudio Grech qal, fix-xhieda tiegħu, li qatt, għajr għal darba fl-2012, ma iltaqa’ ma George Farrugia n-negozjant taż-żejt li ngħata l-proklama mill-Kabinett immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi. L-emails fil-pussess tal-Malta Today juru mod ieħor.

L-istorja hi waħda gravi għax hu mistenni f’okkazjonijiet bħal dawn, li l-informazzjoni u t-tweġibiet li jingħataw mill-Membru Parlamentari jkunu korretti.

Tinħtieġ spjegazzjoni li tagħmel sens minn Claudio Grech innifsu. Imma jekk din l-ispjegazzjoni ma tingħatax, naħseb li ma tantx hemm toroq minnfejn jista’ jgħaddi.

Taż-żejt jagħtu karozza lill-Labour Party ta’ Joseph Muscat

Daewoo veritas

Huwa u jixhed il-bieraħ quddiem il-Kumitat għall Kontijiet Pubbliċi l-bieraħ George Farrugia xehed fl-istess żmien li ta’ riġal ta’ arloġġ tal-lira lil Tonio Fenech (dak iż-żmien Ministru tal-Finanzi) hu u ħutu kienu taw rigal ta’ karozza lill-Partit tal-Labour ta’ Joseph. Fix-xhieda issemma Manwel Cuschieri ex-President tal-Partit li kien in kuntatt dwar dan ir-rigal.

Kif ma qalilna xejn dwar dan ir-rigal is-Sur Manwel!

Il-bieraħ fil-għaxija it-Times qaltilna hekk:

“Pardoned oil trader George Farrugia told the Public Accounts Committee this evening that he and his brothers had given the Labour Party a car at around the same time that they had given former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech a crafted clock.

His brother Raymond, he said, had been in contact with former Labour official Manuel Cuschieri over the Daiwoo donation.

He also said that another two crafted clocks, worth €400 each, had been donated to the Nationalist Party and were included in the Independence Day lottery prizes”

Anke’ l-Malta Today il-bieraħ semmew ir-rigal tal-karozza Daewoo lill-Labour ta’ Joseph. Il-Malta Today tgħidilna iktar. Tgħidilna li waqt il-kampanja elettorali l-kumpanija ta’ Farrugia ipprovdiet numru ta’ karozzi lil Labour u lill-PN. L-anqas din ma qalulna!

Taż-żejt jinvestu fis-sod, anke fil-Labour Party, mhux biss fil-PN.

Grazzi Sur Awditur Ġenerali

Awditur.AMifsud

Min segwa dak li ġara s’issa fil-Kumitat għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi seta jara kif l-Opposizzjoni Nazzjonalista għal darba oħra fetħet il-kanuni fuq l-Uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali bit-tama li iċċaqlaq l-attenzjoni minn fuq l-imġieba tal-ex Ministru Austin Gatt.

Naħseb li l-iktar diskors importanti li intqal mill-Awditur Ġenerali Anthony Mifsud u d-Deputat Awditur Ġenerali Charles Deguara kien meta fissru d-differenza bejn li tifformola l-politika tal-Gvern u li tieħu ħsieb li din tkun implimentata.

Meta l-Gvern permezz tal-Ministri tiegħu mhux biss jifformolaw il-politika (policy) iżda jfittxu li jindaħlu fid-dettall ikunu qed jindaħlu fejn m’għandhomx.  Ma jagħmilx sens li taħtar tim ta’ esperti u mbagħad tindaħlilhom. Jew huma esperti jew m’humiex.

Il-konklużjoni ta’ dan kollu hi li spiċċa ż-żmien tal-Ministri “hands on”. Il-Ministru mhux il-Manager. Qiegħed hemm biex jifformola l-politika li għandha tkun segwita. Imbagħad m’għandux jindaħal.

Kif qal  l-Awditur Ġenerali meta Ministru jindaħal fl-implementazzjoni tal-policy din hi prattika ħażina (bad governance) anke jekk il-liġi dan tippermettieh.

Grazzi Sur Awditur Ġenerali.

A case of bad governance

The full process leading to the agreement whereby St Philip’s Hospital is leased to the Government with the option to purchase requires careful examination. Even after Monday’s parliamentary debate, the information is substantially under wraps with only small snippets having been made available to date. The little that is known however, already points towards bad governance.

The Government opted to start negotiations with the owner of St Philip’s Hospital late in 2008, that is four years ago. Commencing negotiations relative to St Philip’s Hospital signifies that alternative sites and options were being excluded: alternative sites were ignored, considered as not being suitable, or as being less suitable than the site under consideration.

The Minister for Health said in Parliament that it would require just under €40 million to rehabilitate St Luke’s Hospital. What the minister forgot to consider was that a basic rule for comparative statements is that, for the comparison to be of any significance, one has to compare like with like. You cannot compare what is required for a 1,000 bed hospital to justify the relative smallness of the sum required relative to a 75-bed or a 110-bed hospital.

The cost to rehabilitate St Luke’s is obviously substantially higher than anything related to St Philip’s. Such comparisons are deceptive. Moreover, parts of St Luke’s are no longer available as they are being used for other purposes.

The potential use of St Luke’s was discarded when negotiations started way back in 2008. If St Luke’s was then considered as suitable, the Rehabilitation Hospital would be up and running by now, saving millions of euros and lots of time. It could have been operational at least three years ago. As a result, it would have been possible for medical personnel at Mater Dei Hospital to deal more appropriately with patients because overcrowding there would have been substantially reduced three years ago, at least.

This is one of the issues which the Auditor General should consider when he examines the process that led to the Government’s decision. I understand that detailed reports are existent. It would be appropriate if these are immediately made available for the consideration of the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General.

It should also be considered whether the Government acted correctly when it opted to initiate direct negotiations with one hospital operator to the exclusion of other suppliers of potentially suitable sites. The fact that the Government is not legally bound to issue a call for tenders does not signify that it is good practice to start the process without such a call or, alternatively, with a request for the submission of expressions of interest. The Government, instead, inversed the process linking itself with a call for an expression of interest issued by the owner of St Philip’s!

The tendering procedure is a basic characteristic of public sector procurement so much that even local councils are expected to issue such a call when leasing or purchasing property. Why is it that the Finance Ministry insists on good practice at a local level but then opts for bad practice at a national level? The reasons brought forward by the Government to justify direct negotiations are equally applicable at a local level, yet the ministries of finance and local government justifiably insist on the tendering procedure.

In view of the above, Franco Debono (actively supported by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando) is insisting that the agreement reached should be shelved until such time that the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives have examined the whole process.

In view of the seriousness of the matter, that is the possible overriding by Parliament of the Executive’s discretion, the honourable way for the Leader of the House was to deal with the motion submitted by Debono with urgency. It should take precedence over all the Government’s business as it strikes at the most basic of uses.

When documentation is submitted for the Auditor General’s scrutiny there is one particular scrap of paper that I will look out for. This is the advice dished out by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority indicating the possibility to consider an application for the increase in beds at St Philip’s to about 280.

A quick visit to the site of St Philip’s would remove all doubts as to the suitability of the site because it is clear that there is hardly sufficient parking space for the hospital’s current size. The only remote possibility for increasing the facilities at St Philip’s in my view is to redevelop it completely, in which case, costings made have to be calculated afresh. And I have serious doubts whether this can be done.

As I see it, there is no way in which St Philip’s can function as projected. Public funds invested in this project would be monies down the drain. Hence the need for the intervention of the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General before the deal is concluded.

 

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 20th October 2012

A democratic test

The reaction of government to Franco Debono’s motion on St Philip’s Hospital is of serious concern. It will certainly be no feather in the cap for Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg if he has to face hearings in the European Parliament in the weeks to come as a possible successor of John Dalli. It is unheard of in a democracy to postpone the consideration of a motion in order that you have a free hand as a result of obstructing Parliament from expressing itself.

Tonio Borg as Leader of the House has to shoulder political responsibility for the manoeuvres which he is orchestrating in the House Business Committee. The motion calls for withholding the conclusion of an agreement between Government and Good Shepherd Group Limited until such time that the process leading to the agreement has been thoroughly examined by the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee.

Such actions contradict Tonio Borg’s credentials built up in the 70s and 80s as a result of which he is known to one and all as a democrat: a reasonable person, respecting the views of others. These manoeuvres point to a different Tonio Borg.

These manoeuvres are motivated by the fact that it is clear that government no longer enjoys the confidence of the House. Faced with such a fact any democrat would not dare to create obstacles to ensure that such a motion is not considered.

Last Monday’s debate in the House was conceded by government as it did not involve any decision taking. The debate revealed that there are a large number of unanswered questions in respect of the  proposed agreement to lease and eventually possibly purchase St Philip’s Hospital. These require an answer before not after the signing of the agreement.

A democratic government would ensure that Parliament expresses itself at the earliest, and once it has spoken it would seek to follow meekly as directed by Parliament.

This is a democratic test which government must face. So far it has avoided it.

 

Published in di-ve.com on Friday, 19 October 2012

L-Isptar San Filep: Frank w is-serjeta’ tal-Gvern

Fl-opinjoni tiegħi l-prezz miftiehem għall-eventwali biegħ tal-Isptar San Filep mhux wieħed kontroversjali. Tonio Fenech Ministru tal-Finanzi ftaħar fil-Parlament li l-prezz kien bargain. Qal nhar it-Tnejn li għadda illi n-negozjaturi għan-nom tal-Gvern kellhom struzzjonijiet biex jimxu ma’ l-inqas stima (dik tal-Fondazzjoni għas-Servizzi Mediċi) u lil sid l-isptar qalulu take it or leave it.

Frank Portelli sid l-Isptar permezz tal-ishma li għandu fil-kumpanija Golden Shepherd Group Limited  ftit seta jinnegozja minħabba l-istat finanzjarju ħażin tal-kumpanija. Kellu jaċċetta prezz baxx : 62% tal-istima oriġinali tal-periti tieghu.  Fil-fehma tiegħi l-isptar San Filep jiswa iktar mill-prezz miftiehem ta’ €12.4 miljuni. Imma dik m’hiex problema tal-Gvern, hi problema ta’ Frank Portelli li spiċċa kif spiċċa. Kien qiegħed jinnegozja minn posizzjoni ta’ djgħufija.

Uħud, anke f’kummenti fuq dan il-blog, jaħsbu li l-Gvern mexa b’favoritiżmu ma Frank Portelli minħabba s-sessjonijiet ta’ “qrar” li organizza bejn nagħaġ mitlufa tal-PN u l-Kap tal-PN f’Villa Arrigo qabel l-Elezzjoni Ġenerali tal-2008. Il-fatti magħrufa s’issa iżda, ma jippuntawx f’din id-direzzjoni.

Il-Ministru tal-Finanzi nhar it-Tnejn fil-Parlament ftaħar li l-istruzzjonijiet li kellu t-team ta’ negozjaturi  tal-Gvern kien li ma jiċċaqlaqx mill-iktar stima baxxa u jassigura li l-prezz tal-ftehim finali jkun tali li ma jkunx hemm diffikulta’ dwaru mal-Awditur Ġenerali u Public Accounts Committee. Naħseb li l-Ministru tal-Finanzi jaf daqsi li l-prezz hu biss wieħed mill-kriterji.

Fost il-kriterji l-oħra (kif imfisser f’artikli  oħra f’dan il-blog) hemm kemm ser jintlaħqu l-oġġettivi tal-proġett propost.

Meta nhar it-Tnejn fil-Parlament tkellem fuq il-permess meħtieg mill-MEPA biex l-Isptar jikber għall-ħtiġijiet li għandu l-Gvern, il-Ministru  Tonio Fenech wera li ma kellux idea x’ser jiġri!  Il-Ministru jaf li l-għan li l-Isptar San Filep ikun jista’ jikber għal daqs li joffri 280 sodda hu diffiċli ħafna li jintlaħaq.

Minkejja li l-iskop tal-proġett mhux ċar  jekk jistax jintlaħaq il-Gvern xorta ser jgħaġġel jiffirma. Fl-4 snin negozjati ma indenjax ruħu jippreżenta applikazzjoni. Kieku ilha deċiza u kien ikollu kollox bl-iswed fuq l-abjad. Daqstant hu serju l-Gvern!