How to steal from the State

If we want people to feel guilty if they steal from the State, we have to have a political class that is up there in the morality quotient. We are far from this. We have to have the conscience to say something is wrong when it is 

Gozo Bishop Mgr Anton Teuma
Gozo Bishop Mgr Anton Teuma

In the art of war, or shall we say politics, timing is of the essence.   

So, when Nationalist leader Bernard Grech lashed out at the ‘mafia clique’ in Labour over the severe disability benefit scam, he was doing what every politician in opposition is expected to do; seize the moment and go for it. 

I am in no way trying to dismiss the social benefit scam and the involvement of politicians. We have to have zero tolerance when it comes to these episodes. 

My point is that the Maltese passion in shafting the government or rather the State has nothing to do with being Labour but rather with being Maltese and Catholic.   

Let us all agree that most of us could not give a hoot if the State or its coffers get a beating.  Or if the State is defrauded.  And I guess it has got worse with all the allegations of corruption over the years. With Joe Citizen basically arguing that if the politicians have no qualms pilfering from the State why should I.  

And this does not only apply to the government employee but many of those who work in the private sector or who see nothing wrong if they avoid work and report sick when they are in fact perfectly fine to work; or take a kickback when their company subcontracts or wins a tender. 

Surely, on the issue of dishing out false medical certificates Grech should look behind his back and start with scrutinising some of his parliamentary colleagues who have been accused by the media of fraudulent behaviour. 

Indeed, his former political strategist Chris Peregin, who now serves as a big business dream changer once upon a time in the not too distant future owned and edited an online platform that hounded and called for the head of a Nationalist MP alleged to have issued medical certificates for fake medical conditions. That Nationalist MP is still a spokesman for the PN. 

It seems we all suffer from amnesia. 

If there was one person who had the gall to call a spade a spade it was Gozo Bishop Mgr Anton Teuma who lamented in his Sunday homily over the fact that many Gozitans employed with government had made skiving their hobby.  He was direct in his words but he was also bemoaning a culture that is deeply rooted in many Maltese and Gozitan communities. 

Everyone knows of the typical government worker who reports for work and then goes off hunting in April and May. 

Indeed, Gozo’s endemic malaise related to public sector employment and people pleading with Gozitan politicians to find them a job with the government goes way back in time, spanning different administrations over five decades. 

It would be rather futile to mention all the politicians who were or are culprits here, because what matters is now not then. 

PN leader Bernard Grech is right in sounding the alarm on the corrupt business of defrauding the State.  Yet I am sure that the cultural attitude towards defrauding the State will be with us for a long time.   

In this small country with an electorate split down the middle and composed of controlled voter constituencies, it seems that everyone believes they are entitled to take from the State. Additionally, they expect the politicians to make this possible. 

It is here that the politician and the political party need to act and work against this ingrained trend. They cannot simply say they want a sense of high morality. They need to see the cause of the problem contributing to the decline in electoral support. They also need to change the electoral law to break the dependence on parochial politics and candidates doing favours for votes. 

It is clear that none of our political leaders, past and present, have had or have the proverbial balls to change or reform this. 

If we want people to feel guilty if they steal from the State, we have to have a political class that is up there in the morality quotient. We are far from this. We have to have the conscience to say something is wrong when it is. 

Unfortunately, I am starting to believe that unless we get a politician who does not seek re-election and is more pre-occupied with his or her legacy, this kind of radical reform will never, ever see the light of day.