MaltaToday previous editions

MALTATODAY 22 January 2023

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 24 of 43

maltatoday | SUNDAY •22 JANUARY 2023 9 INTERVIEW and 'Red' ple, who argue: 'Let's do things differently; let's look beyond par- tisan politics' … that, I think, is the way forward. As for which party actually suc- ceeds: I am doing my utmost, together with my colleagues, to make sure that it will be the Na- tionalist Party. Let's turn to the Electrogas dis- cussion itself. Last May, you said that: 'Once there is an open chapter, it is the opposition's job to see it closed'. First of all: what do you understand by 'closure', in this context? And given that PAC has been discussing this issue for so long – and we seem to be nowhere near 'endgame' – when do you envisage that to happen? I disagree that we are 'nowhere near endgame'. At the end of the day, there are still some witness- es that I, and my colleagues, be- lieve should still testify: but now, we are certainly approaching the final stages. One question that remains, however, is about the system it- self. Our system tells us how the PAC is expected to function; but it doesn't tell us 'how to close the chapter'… That's precisely what I just asked, though. What practical effect would a final PAC reso- lution even have, anyway? Are there repercussions? Conse- quences? If, by 'consequences', you mean punitive measures… then no. We are a Parliamentary committee, not a court of law. But there ARE consequences, nonetheless. One, it is in the public interest to have a forum where people who have responsibilities towards the pub- lic – holders of public office – are made to give a public account of their actions. I'm not just talk- ing about Electrogas, here. I'm talking about the principle that 'Justice must not be SEEN to be done.' And besides: there have already been consequences. The fact that Konrad Mizzi was compelled to answer questions before the PAC, for instance… don't you think it had consequences? That depends. Nothing much re- ally came out of Konrad Mizzi's answers, did it? What about the fact that he ended up resigning from politics, altogether? But that cannot be put down to anything that specifically came out from PAC sessions. Konrad Mizzi's resignation was forced upon him by the party, after the NAO report… Obviously, without a doubt, a large part of the work is carried out by the NAO. But the fact that someone has to go before the PAC, and give an account of their actions, and explain themselves in public… I think that has a cer- tain weight, as well. But it also depends on what ac- tion is taken afterwards. This is another area where we would benefit from looking at how things function in other countries. What usually happens, elsewhere, is that once the PAC concludes its inquiries, it will issue a number of recommendations. These are then tabled in the Parliament's plenary; and the relevant minis- ters, or officials, are given a period within which to come back to Par- liament, and answer those recom- mendations. In other words, there is a fol- low-up. In Malta, this doesn't happen. Not to persist with the same question, but: doesn't that leave us where we were before? With lots of 'reports' and 'recommen- dations', but no 'follow-up ac- tion'? Look: the question you're ask- ing is something I hear out there on the street, a lot. People keep telling me, 'isn't it all for nothing?' There you go… … but it doesn't mean that we should all just give up, and do nothing. What I said about 'ideal- ism' still counts; you still have to at least try to 'close the chapter'; and to close it well. And an issue remains 'relevant', only for as long as you keep it under the spotlight. Besides: it doesn't change the fact that the PAC hasachieved results [in the Electrogas case]. For instance: before the Auditor General's report, did anybody know how the meetings of the [Electrogas] Board of Directors actually unfolded? No: but when the PAC summoned those direc- tors, individually, to testify… all of them confirmed, separately, that they had a two-hour meeting in which the chairman showed them a presentation; and they all, without exception, accepted that presentation unquestioningly. Now: the Chairman testified that he had received that pres- entation from someone else – David Galea – which makes it: 'detto, del detto, del detto'. And yet, that is how the decision on Electrogas – one of the biggest contracts this country has ever seen; on which our entire nation- al power-supply depends; and about which there were serious allegations of corruption - was actually taken. And it's exact- ly what you would expect, from people who are appointed to simply 'rubber-stamp' the gov- ernment's decisions… The latest twist is that the Op- position members are insisting that Police Commissioner Ange- lo Gafa has to testify (or, alterna- tively, answer questions in writ- ing); with government members arguing that this would 'preju- dice the ongoing investigation'. Can you explain precisely why it is so important, in your view, that Gafa testifies at this stage? First of all, it's important to clarify the respective institutional roles of the police, and PAC. The Police are empowered – actual- ly, they are obliged – to initiate criminal proceedings, wherev- er there is enough evidence of a crime having been committed. The PAC, on the other hand, has no remit to enter into ques- tions of criminal culpability. But its job is to investigate maladmin- istration in government spending ['infieq hazin']: and one doesn't exclude the other. So part of our job is also to examine whether Malta's national institutions are functioning well, or not, when it comes to possible financial crime in government spending. And this is why I feel that it is important for the Police Com- missioner to answer our ques- tions. Whenever the National Auditor publishes a report, that report is automatically sent out to a number of institutions: among them, the Police. So if there were so many alle- gations of corruption, dangling around this contract – and when the Electrogas case itself is al- so embroiled in the murder of a journalist: because Daphne Caru- ana Galizia wrote about Electro- gas, ultimately – isn't in the inter- est of the Maltese public, for the Police Commissioner to give a public account of his actions – or inaction – to date? What about the allegation of 'interference in the ongoing in- vestigation', though? Couldn't there be valid reasons, for a Police Commissioner to want to 'keep his cards to his chest', with regard to an ongoing inves- tigation? If that's the case, then Gafa should also explain why he had no objection to testifying before the PAC – when still an inspec- tor - in the [Enemalta] oil scan- dal; but decides not to, in this case. But there's no need for any PAC hearing to 'interfere in the investigation' – which inciden- tally is a crime; and as such, it is something I have no intention of doing. I will certainly not be ask- ing Gafa any questions that may hinder the investigations… One of the questions I will ask him, if he shows up – it's among the three we've already sent in writing - is: 'Has there ever been an instance, in general, when you found yourself asking questions [about Electrogas] to a politician – or a 'person of trust', or some- one otherwise connected to gov- ernment – but they refused to answer, for fear of 'incriminating themselves'? Legally speaking, however: that cannot be considered an 'admis- sion of guilt'… In court, no. But in an investiga- tion into whether government's use of taxpayer's money – in this particular case – was judicious, or not; it should certainly be enough to set off alarm bells, within the Police Force; and to initiate a se- rious investigation, into the Elec- trogas scandal. Ultimately, however: my goal – not just as PAC chairman, but as a Maltese citizen – is to see to it that we have a functional system of 'checks and balances' between the institutions. And to ensure that what needs to come out - in this case, and others – DOES ac- tually come out, in the end.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of MaltaToday previous editions - MALTATODAY 22 January 2023