Anes­thetised ac­count­abil­ity

Ear­lier this week, the Plan­ning and En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sioner at the Om­buds­man’s of­fice held that it is no­body’s busi­ness as to whether or not the Plan­ning Author­ity’s Board mem­bers at­tend Board meet­ings: this is a mat­ter for their ex­clu­sive con­cern.

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

An ar­chi­tect and civil en­gi­neer, the au­thor is Chair­man of Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika -The Green Party in Malta.­co­[email protected]­ter­nat­, http://carmel­ca­co­pardo.word­

The pro­vi­sion of a jet plane to en­cour­age and fa­cil­i­tate the at­ten­dance of Ms Jac­que­line Gili at the PA Board meet­ing which con­sid­ered and ap­proved the dB mon­stros­ity at Pem­broke is thus con­sid­ered as an un­due in­ter­fer­ence and in­flu­ence in the Plan­ning Author­ity’s op­er­a­tions.

The Plan­ning Author­ity Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man Jo­hann But­tigieg is on record as hav­ing taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for the de­ci­sion to bring Ms Gili to Malta from Cata­nia by air and fa­cil­i­tat­ing her re­turn to con­tinue her in­ter­rupted fam­ily hol­i­day. In a coun­try where good gov­er­nance is up­held, Mr But­tigieg would have re­signed forth­with and, in the ab­sence of such a res­ig­na­tion, he would have been fired on the spot as soon as in­for­ma­tion on the mat­ter be­came pub­lic knowl­edge.

In ad­di­tion one would also have had to deal with the fall­out re­gard­ing the va­lid­ity of the de­ci­sion so taken as a re- sult of such an un­due in­ter­fer­ence.

It is, how­ever, well known that the Plan­ning Author­ity is in­ca­pable of re­act­ing to such bla­tant bad gov­er­nance. It is com­mon knowl­edge that it lacks the prover­bial balls, mak­ing it in­ca­pable of act­ing prop­erly.

But we can­not re­al­is­ti­cally ex­pect oth­er­wise, be­cause the ap­pointees to pub­lic au­thor­i­ties mir­ror the be­hav­iour of their po­lit­i­cal masters. We can­not ex­pect ac­count­abil­ity from the ap­pointees if those who ap­point them con­tin­u­ously try to wrig­gle out of shoul­der­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. There are, of course, some ex­cep­tions.

The Panama Pa­pers saga is re­cent enough. In­stead of fir­ing Min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi and his Chief of Staff Keith Schem­bri on the spot for set­ting up com­pa­nies in the Cen­tral Amer­i­can tax-haven, Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat acted as if noth­ing of sig­nif­i­cance ever hap­pened. What could have hap­pened – in ad­di­tion to the set­ting-up of Mizzi’s and Schem­bri’s com­pa­nies and the third mys­te­ri­ous one (Egrant) is not so far prov­able. This has been stated re­peat­edly by our Courts, al­though the rel­a­tive de­ci­sions have been re­peat­edly mis­in­ter­preted as ab­solv­ing var­i­ous po­lit­i­cally-ex­posed peo­ple (PEP) from any wrong­do­ing. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

There is no doubt that, so far, there is an ab­sence of proof in­di­cat­ing po­ten­tial crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity. How­ever, as a min­i­mum, there is suf­fi­cient proof in the pub­lic do­main point­ing to­wards both er­rors of judge­ment and un­eth­i­cal be­hav­iour which, on its own, is suf­fi­cient to jus­tify im­me­di­ate po­lit­i­cal sanc­tions.

This is not only ap­pli­ca­ble to all the PEP fea­tur­ing in the Panama Pa­pers saga. It is also ap­pli­ca­ble to other dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios across the po­lit­i­cal di­vide.

On a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level, I re­fer to the three re­ports by the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral con­cern­ing the po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of Ja­son Az­zopardi, all three of which deal with the man­age­ment of gov­ern­ment-owned land. In all three cases, for­mer Min­is­ter Ja­son Az­zopardi was heav­ily cen­sored. I re­mem­ber when a se­nior civil ser­vant tes­ti­fied dur­ing a sit­ting of Parliament’s Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee in Oc­to­ber 2017, in pub­lic ses­sion, that then Min­is­ter Az­zopardi was aware of all the go­ings-on. Yet Ja­son Az­zopardi sanc­ti­mo­niously plays the id­iot and feigns ig­no­rance of what is go­ing on around his desk.

As yet, the Op­po­si­tion has not yet held him (and oth­ers) to ac­count. The Op­po­si­tion can­not ex­pect to be taken se­ri­ously when it rightly cen­sors oth­ers be­fore it musters suf­fi­cient courage to put its own house in or­der.

Un­for­tu­nately, the po­lit­i­cal class cur­rently in of­fice is not ca­pa­ble of prac­tis­ing what it preaches. With such anes­thetised po­lit­i­cal par­ties, it is no won­der that this coun­try has long gone to the dogs.

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