On meritocracy and nepotism

Muscat has now shown that he has no innovative or different method in looking at appointments.

Cartoon by Mark Scicluna
Cartoon by Mark Scicluna

We cannot think of one argument to justify the appointment of political activists to a sensitive post or a position that requires capabilities and competence. 

The recent spate of appointments simply promotes nepotism and does away with meritocracy.

The appointments of Aaron Farrugia and Clifton Grima, two Labour activists, is a perfect case in point. They were appointed, respectively, to the post of chief executive of the Malta Freeport and chief executive at Mount Carmel hospital.  Their academic backgrounds at age 33 and 29, respectively, are management and accountancy, and law, respectively. They are a far cry from the competences and experience required to run the two entities. In the past the posts were held by individuals who may have suffered from conflicts of interest, having hailed from the private setcor, but they could not be queried over their competences.

Undoubtedly the only criterion that stands out in these appointments is their allegiance and militancy in the Labour Party.

There is little doubt in our mind that the mistakes of the past, when 'blue-eyed' boys were appointed to boards because of their political leanings, are being repeated today. In 1987, a similar posse of political animals, this time from the PN, were appointed to boards. They included young lawyers and even university students.

But these appointments are far more serious; it is abundantly clear that there was no call for applications. A chief executive does not have a chairman's role. The post calls for managerial experience and drive. 

It is incredible that the Labour Party in opposition saw fit to castigate those posts which bypassed the normal procedures expected when appointing people to an entity.

Neither of these two individuals seem to have been appointed correctly and after a proper call for applications.

This obsession in appointing political appointees to sensitive and crucial posts completely thrashes Joseph Muscat's battle cry of Malta tagħna lkoll (Malta for all).

Indeed it contradicts and erases any impression that this is a passing phase and that we need to give more time to Muscat's policies.

Muscat has now shown that he has no innovative or different method in looking at appointments.

This is a sad day in the brief history of Muscat's ascendancy. It proves that at 39, the Labour prime minister who promised a new way of doing politics has basically shown that politicians are only interested in investing in sycophancy as a guarantee for their future.

The magnetism of holding public office and getting handsomely remunerated for the job continues to serve as the best method in investing in political loyalty.

Undermining the Auditor General

If there are issues which the Nationalist opposition should be tackling it surely shouldn't be to undermine the Auditor General's credibility in the NAO's report on fuel procurement at Enemalta in the previous administration.

Jason Azzopardi's and Beppe Fenech Adami's approach has been shameful.  This hearing would have been a wonderful opportunity to admit that the workings at Enemalta were simply wrong.

And yet the two gentlemen have decided to dent the credibility of the Auditor General in a bid to exculpate the role of Austin Gatt in overseeing Enemalta. There is little to justify the mistakes of Enemalta and the politicians who ran policy at the time. And yet Azzopardi and Fenech Adami cannot quite grasp that the whole episode will ricochet.

They need to turn over a new leaf at Enemalta, but unfortunately the Public Accounts Committee is only serving to remind the public that at Enemalta, procurement procedures were handled irresponsibly. How can we relish in the independence of an officer of Parliament such as the Auditor General if MPs keep undermining the work being done? The NAO and the work it does demands more respect.

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