It’s going to be a wild five years. Government ministers haven’t yet organised their respective offices, and criminal activity backed and enabled by the government is already rampant. Yesterday, the Prime Minister was even as brazen enough as to lie about a €250,000 tender by Transport Malta awarded to one of his alleged criminal clients, Christian Borg who is currently being charged with fraud and kidnapping. Robert Abela made at least €45,000 thanks to Christian Borg by literally getting him a development permit on a plot of land in Zabbar before he transferred it to his name. It’s an old story at the Planning Authority where corrupt officials issue development permits to rent-seekers against a bribe and in fact, ever since Lawrence Gonzi’s administration, the traditional fee for such a bribe was around €50,000. The 50K figure is also a common figure in Malta for corrupt practices.
What’s new is that Robert Abela has no shame in defending the government for giving a public contract to an alleged criminal with serious accusations. Jopseph Muscat used to make some pretences, such as when he initiated a legal case to revoke the corrupt deal with Mark Gaffarena over a property in Valletta. Here, Robert Abela has some skeletons in the closet so he is bound to protect Christian Borg for his own personal sake. But there is much more to the story. Robert Abela even roped in the Labour Party to cover up for him as a trusted Labour Party former employee becomes the official director of Christian Borg’s company while Christian Borg faces criminal charges.
Robert Abela said that the tender awarded to Christian Borg’s company should be respected as it has been approved by a court decision. He also said that not doing so would see Malta embracing anarchy and would disrespect rule of law. This is the same Orwellian discourse of a criminal autocrat who rejected PN’s proposals to criminalise the association of politicians with criminal groups on the grounds that it would ruin the economy. Autocrats and dictators will commonly invert the principles of rule of law in their own favour to allow a perverted form of criminal order which crushes rule of law.
What Robert Abela is doing is also against the spirit of public office and common sense, apart from being potentially illegal and also criminal. At all times during their duties, public officials have a responsibility to uphold the interest of the public and to invoke laws and regulations to protect the public interest. Here we have a clear case where the government and the Prime Minister are doing the opposite of what they are supposed to do by willingly going against the public interest to favour the interests of Christian Borg.
Indeed, the law on public procurement gives the contracting authority the right to disqualify bidders even if there is no judicial decision in their regard (see articles 193, 196, 197 and others). And there is also another problem with Robert Abela’s declaration. The case he is mentioning is actually a civil case and the contracting authority still has the executive right to disqualify the bidder due to extreme circumstances that provided new information to the contracting authority previously unknown to them. However, our procurement officials are invoking and protecting the interests of Christian Borg instead of doing their job and using the law to protect the public interest. We call this treachery in traditional English.
Here we can’t even give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt because as a €30,000 a month government lawyer, one would assume that he knows very well the intricacies of procurement law. He comes out that he doesn’t know anything about procurement law, or rather as someone who is saying stupid things to cover up for his criminal client. Probably, it’s both, but the reality is that he doesn’t care about procurement regulations. He thinks it’s all well and good to conspire with the Labour Party and abuse of procurement regulations to favour his criminal clients.
Meanwhile, remember that while our corrupt Prime Minister is using government resources to protect his criminal friends, the world is going through a series of several crises. The rent-seeking regime will be focused on its fight for survival while our country keeps getting wrecked.