Al­fred Grixti says that if he were in PN’s shoes he would also make a ‘song and dance’ about his ‘eye for an eye’ com­ment

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Foun­da­tion for So­cial Wel­fare ser­vices CEO Al­fred Grixti told

The Malta In­de­pen­dent, while be­ing pressed on his ‘eye for an eye’ Face­book post, that if he were in the Op­po­si­tion’s place, he would also make ‘a song and dance’ about some­one post­ing such a state­ment.

Writ­ing on Face­book fol­low­ing the EPP (the EU Par­lia­men­tary party which the PN forms part of) vot­ing against Leo Brin­cat’s nom­i­na­tion for a post within the Euro­pean Court of Au­di­tors, Mr Grixti said that no­body ex­pected bet­ter from the PN, be­cause they were a neg­a­tive party. “But you are warned,” he added. “The time for tak­ing stock will come. If needs be, with you we will adopt an eye for an eye (con­cept). Don’t worry. The peo­ple will pay you back for all the dam­age you are caus­ing to Malta. You will pay a hefty price for it.” The Malta In­de­pen­dent had pub­lished that story.

Mr Grixti was heav­ily crit­i­cised for his com­ment, with the PN go­ing as far as re­quest­ing the Prime Min­is­ter to re­move Mr Grixti from his post.

Mr Grixti in­sists that all of this is a ‘song and dance’, and is all part of the po­lit­i­cal game. While stress­ing that he dis­tin­guishes be­tween his per­sonal po­lit­i­cal be­liefs and his job, and while ar­gu­ing that he has never dis­crim­i­nated against his work­ers and those who re­quire ser­vices from the agen­cies which fall be­neath him , he said “in re­al­ity I sleep com­fort­ably at night be­cause my con­science is clear.”

“I am con­fi­dent in my abil­ity to dis­tin­guish be­tween my po­lit­i­cal be­liefs and ac­tivism”

He re­cently told this news­room in a pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle that his post was made af­ter of­fice hours. Fol­low­ing that re­ply, this news­room asked: “You re­cently said that the post was made af­ter hours,

yet you are the head of the FSWS, which has a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions un­der it. Is that re­ally an ex­cuse?

Mr Grixti re­sponds: “Let me tell you what I told se­nior man­age­ment the first day I was ap­pointed to this post. I said, ‘Lis­ten, I am a po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee. I am ob­vi­ously here to de­liver on the PL’s elec­toral man­i­festo in this sec­tor, but I couldn’t care two hoots about your pol­i­tics. I am not here to dis­cuss pol­i­tics or to make par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal judge­ments and eval­u­a­tions’. That is my guid­ing light.”

“I am con­fi­dent in my abil­ity to dis­tin­guish be­tween my po­lit­i­cal be­liefs and ac­tivism, and my full­time job. Be­fore com­ing here, I was at the ETC and I didn’t dis­crim­i­nate po­lit­i­cally there, nor here. We are deal­ing with vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, and if some­one comes to Sedqa, I do not ask them for their party card. I am per­fectly ca­pa­ble of dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween my roles. I have no prob­lem in say­ing what I feel strongly publicly, but hand on heart that does not in­ter­fere in my job. When I look at some­one I don’t see whether they are blue or red. I wear my po­lit­i­cal be­liefs on my sleeve, I’ve nailed my Labour colours to the high­est flag pole, but I get on with ev­ery­one and I do not look at peo­ples’ faces.”

Mr Grixti said that when he was a teacher, a col­league of his once said that “he ad­mired me as I don’t look at who is in gov­ern­ment and al­ways do my job to the best of my abil­ity. I told him ‘Lis­ten, from 8.30am to 2.30pm I am paid out of pub­lic funds, so I give my 100%. Af­ter 2.30 pm I do what­ever I want as long as I do not break any laws.’ My at­ti­tude is still the same. You can say that I an­swer emails while on hol­i­day, so yes, my cur­rent job is a 24hour job, but I be­lieve the bot­tom line is whether one is ca­pa­ble of dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween his role as the head of an en­tity. I think that if I messed up in any way I would have al­ready been ei­ther sacked or in the pa­pers, not just for writ­ing some­thing on Face­book, but for dis­crim­i­na­tion or solely pro­mot­ing labourites, etc. We don’t do that here.”

Pressed about the con­tent of his Face­book com­ment, given that he is the CEO who deals with or­gan­i­sa­tions who per­form sen­si­tive work, he said: “Yes, let’s put it this way, if you think any­one in the PN or their MEPs need to utilise th­ese ser­vice and we would deny it, you are wrong. That is the short an­swer.”

Asked why he said it, Mr Grixti ar­gued: “Be­cause it is in the po­lit­i­cal con­text. The po­lit­i­cal con­text is that if some­one wants to play po­lit­i­cal hard­ball, so can we.”

Then why use that phrase? “Be­cause it is more colour­ful and em­pha­sise it more.”

Mr Grixti also said, af­ter a num­ber of back and forth ques­tions and an­swers, said that he is still a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist, a deputy mayor of Żeb­buġ. “The way the reg­u­la­tions are, any time they choose to sack me from this job I would go back to my full-time job as a head of school, as I am ‘lent’ here. Be­cause, what they call my sub­stan­tive post is po­lit­i­cally free, that is why I can stand for the lo­cal coun­cil elec­tions. The­o­ret­i­cally, I can stand for the gen­eral elec­tions but I’m not in­ter­ested.”

“I wasn’t do­ing any­thing to court the hardcore Labour vote be­cause I am stand­ing for any elec­tion, but as a life-long Labour ac­tivist my in­ter­est is in see­ing Labour re­elected. And I think the PN, by and large, has not done it­self a favour by what it has done to Leo Brin­cat. They made their point once with Toni Abela, now they did it again. I am pos­i­tive they are not win­ning votes back that way, so as far as I am con­cerned, if they want to con­tinue shoot­ing them­selves in the foot from now un­til the elec­tion they are wel­come to do so. But I think they mis­judged the num­ber of Mal­tese who feel be­trayed by their ac­tions. We Mal­tese do not like air­ing our dirty linen in pub­lic, and they did just that. And it will back­fire.”

“If there is any politi­cian on both sides of the House who one can call Mr Clean, it is Leo Brin­cat. I think it was un­fair on him. He is a very bal­anced politi­cian, not par­ti­san. Leo Brin­cat gets crit­i­cised by die-hards as he is not mil­i­tant enough, and even the choice of Mr Brin­cat should have been ap­pre­ci­ated. I think they threw the baby out with the bath­wa­ter.”

Asked point blank whether he sees any­thing wrong in what he said while hold­ing his po­si­tion at FSWS, he said: “No, and I qual­ify this as I am ca­pa­ble of dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween my per­sonal opin­ions, which ev­ery­one al­ready knows about, and the ser­vice I am here to give.”

Mr Grixti was again pressed on whether the ev­ery­day Joe could be fright­ened when it comes to a CEO of such a pub­lic en­tity mak­ing such state­ments on Face­book.

“The proof of the pud­ding is in the eat­ing. Since I’ve been here, have we ever turned any­one away on po­lit­i­cal grounds? The an­swer is no. Have we not pro­vided our ser­vices to any­one? The an­swer is no, we work with any­one who comes and we don’t ask them about their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.”

“There is an is­sue at the mo­ment, which does not have any­thing to do di­rectly with FSWS per se. The Depart­ment of So­cial Se­cu­rity, for au­dit­ing pur­poses, is dou­ble check­ing on the el­i­gi­bil­ity of all cat­e­gories of ben­e­fi­cia­ries. One cat­e­gory is fos­ter car­ers. Now I don’t agree with the way they han­dled it, but they asked them to pro­duce the cer­tifi­cate is­sued by the fos­ter­ing board to con­firm that they are fos­ter car­ers. I think they should have gone di­rectly to the board them­selves and asked them for it in­stead of both­er­ing the car­ers. I know of a case where a fos­ter carer had a word with an Op­po­si­tion mem­ber about it, in­stead of do­ing as I would have done and call So­cial Sol­i­dar­ity Min­is­ter Michael Far­ru­gia to ask what this mess was about. The Op­po­si­tion told the carer that if they want to go pub­lic they will hold a press con­fer­ence about it. Now who is try­ing to score par­ti­san points, me or this PN MP?”

He stressed that noth­ing hap­pened to the fos­ter carer. “We are giv­ing all the fos­ter car­ers all the help they need.” He said that he told the Direc­tor of Aġen­z­ija Ap­poġġ to take the pa­pers di­rectly to the Depart­ment them­selves, so as the fos­ter work­ers will no longer be both­ered.

Mr Grixti stresses that he has been a pub­lic sec­tor em­ployee all his life and that he has “never been charged, let alone found guilty of dis­crim­i­na­tion. And lis­ten, it’s in the game, I didn’t lose any sleep be­cause the PN ded­i­cated a press re­lease to me, say­ing that I should be sacked. It’s in the game. If I were in their place I would do the same.”

He said that by air­ing Malta’s dirty linen abroad in that man­ner, one has to draw a line and you are invit­ing an eye for an eye form of re­tal­i­a­tion. He stressed that such ar­gu­ments should be kept lo­cal. “I have never, and will never dis­crim­i­nate against any­one. I have no prob­lem with the crit­i­cism against me as my con­science is clear, but other peo­ple need to take a long hard look in the mir­ror. Are they do­ing well by Malta?”

This was not the first time that a sim­ple Face­book sta­tus stirred con­tro­versy. Such sta­tuses had even led to a dras­tic mea­sure by the gov­ern­ment. In Au­gust 2015, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Evarist Bar­tolo banned all ETC se­nior man­age­ment from hav­ing a Face­book pres­ence af­ter the CEO, Philip Rizzo, posted a com­ment be­neath a photo up­loaded by one of his sub­or­di­nates wear­ing a one-piece swim­suit telling her that she was “the only ETC Head of Di­vi­sion with the three Bs… Brains, Boobs and Balls.”

Other Po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees, such as Glenn Bed­ing­field, Franco De­bono and Jef­frey Pul­li­cino Or­lando have all stirred con­tro­versy with their posts on pub­lic fora.

We Mal­tese do not like air­ing our dirty linen in pub­lic, and they (the PN) did just that

Foun­da­tion for So­cial Wel­fare Ser­vices CEO Al­fred Grixti Photo: Jonathan Borg

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