Muscat calls on Gonzi and Gatt to clarify Gatt’s involvement in Enemalta scandal

Labour leader Joseph Muscat calls on Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Minister Austin Gatt to ‘clear the air’ on Gatt’s involvement in unfolding Enemalta corruption scandal.

“The final judgement of whether the choice was wise or not can only be taken when we see what assort of the information the witnesses will deliver,” Labour Leader Joseph Muscat said of the presidential pardon granted to businessman George Farrugia.
“The final judgement of whether the choice was wise or not can only be taken when we see what assort of the information the witnesses will deliver,” Labour Leader Joseph Muscat said of the presidential pardon granted to businessman George Farrugia.

Labour Leader Joseph Muscat has called on both Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Minister Austin Gatt to "clear the air" regarding the revelations regarding the Enemalta commissions kick-backs scandal that are coming to light from day to day.

Speaking during a political activity and special broadcast of Fis Sustanza in Kirkop, Muscat referred to the online correspondence that was unveiled by the Times, describing it as "cringe-worthy" and insisted that the information contained therein calls for clarifications by Prime Minister Gonzi and Minister Austin Gatt.

Muscat said that when the Enemalta kickbacks scandal story broke four weeks ago, Austin Gatt had confirmed that he met with Farrugia, but insisted that only in his capacity as a candidate contesting in the first district.

Howver Muscat noted that the correspondence showed that Farrugia was asked by a fuel procurement company how his meetings with "the minister" went.

"I don't think its because they are interested in how are things going in Valletta and Floriana," Muscat said.

The Labour leader also noted that other correspondence makes reference to meetings between Farrugia and former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone "to discuss what was talked about with A.G."

"I will not speculate who this A.G. is," Muscat said, while the audience audibly voiced its scepticism, also noting that the correspondence revealed by the Times makes reference to someone named 'Aust'.

"The Prime Minister and Minister Gatt should truly clear the air regarding this issue," Muscat said, insisting that the "political aspect of the scandal exists irrespective of the investigation."

"Publically, Minister Gatt played down the sort of meetings he might have had with this person [Farrugia]. And now, this correspondence emerged," Muscat said, insisting that the situation needs to be addressed politically without impinging on the ongoing police investigation into alleged corruption practices.

"This is a political issue which has nothing to do with the police investigation. It is an issue that should be cleared, and an unhappy state of affairs which could have been avoided with introduction of a Whistleblowers' Act."

Muscat insisted that "responsibility falls to the Prime Minister for him to take whatever action he deems necessary to clear the air."

"There needs to be a clear account how things were done and how the issue was dealt with," Muscat added, insisting that given that he will not be contesting the election, Gatt is not facing the prospect of any sort of political judgement for his involvement or behaviour over the past four weeks.

Responding to questions regarding the statement just hours earlier whereby businessman George Farrugia would be receiving a presidential pardon, Muscat said that he interpreted this as "an admission."

"I understand that once there is a pardon, there is also an admission. Someone has admitted to bribery, and is requesting a pardon to reveal everything," Muscat said.

"We know for a fact that this exits," Muscat said, reminding audiences that "the amounts we are discussing are commissions on roughly 1 million Euros every day."

"Someone either took or is still taking, commission on that sum," Muscat said.

Asked on his appraisal of the wisdom of granting the presidential pardon to Farrugia, Muscat was cautious.

"I will remain prudent on this point. The situation is such that I understand that the Prime Minister, consulted with AG and with Police Commissioner, in order to make that decision."

Muscat also noted that "there were other institutions who could have made the decision instead of the Prime Minister."

"However, the Prime Minister chose to take this decision, along with the whole of cabinet. To take this decision he must have had information that we do not," Muscat said.

The Labour leader said that the call whether the pardon was wise or not can only be made when Farrugia unveils the information that the PN government thinks is worth a presidential pardon.

"The final judgement of whether the choice was wise or not can only be taken when we see what assort of the information the witnesses will deliver," Muscat said, "and whether the information will be crucial for the arraignment of others, or the discovery of information that police had not already discovered by itself."

Muscat also insisted that "if we had a Whistleblowers' Act, all this would have been avoided" while also reiterating that the current approach represents a risk in instances were politicians are deliberating on whether to grant pardons to witnesses that could potentially expose their own illicit involvement.

Muscat insisted that "situation where politicians should have to interfere in an investigation to determine whether to deliver a presidential pardon only in the most exceptional of cases."

"What happens in instances when, around the table, there are one or more politicians who have to decide on a pardon, with the knowledge that they would implicate or expose themselves should they decide on what or another?"

"What if they decide not in the interest of the country, but to safeguard their own interests?" Muscat asked.

During the event, Muscat also pledged that if elected to government, a new Labour government would pass and implement a Party Financing Law before parliament adjourns for the 2013 summer recess.

"We will be doing this because we feel that all parties should be obliged to publish their accounts, in the interests of transparency," Muscat said, reiterating that the Labour Party is the only party that publishes its accounts.

Muscat also hit out at the Nationalist Party regarding the out-of-stock 'free' medications issue, insisting that "not even the caretaker government, which is supposedly running the current service, knows exactly what it is proposing."

Muscat insisted that the Labour Party's "clear", pledging that a Labour government would "work to improve the system so that, through changes in its procedure, medicines are reliably in stock and available to patients."

He added that "we are ready to work with the private sector to ensure this" and added that the Labour Party will be presenting deadlines for this proposal's implementation.

The Labour leader insisted that the PN's continuously-shifting position showed that the the Nationalist Party itself is not sure of what it is proposing, and hit out at the current system where he described as "inefficient" and "out of date."

Muscat said that Health Minister Joe Cassar himself had admitted the reason for out-of-stock medication is the procurement system that is used to purchase them.

"Then why are you health minister? Shouldn't you change a system that is not working?" Muscat asked.

Muscat also reiterated that the PN's proposal to simply start handing out partial refunds for supposedly free medication would mean that the state would have "no incentive to keep medicines in stock."

Muscat said that the system being proposed by Labour "will not impose additional burdens or costs on the POYC pharmacies" or "take away or undermine their income."

"We will be entering into discussions regarding how professional people who work in the health care sector can establish and run a distribution system, with the input of local councils," Muscat said.

Muscat also reiterated several proposals tabled by the Labour Party regarding the pension system, and also assistance for pensioners, and disabled persons.

Muscat reiterated Labour's commitment to ensuring that the lowest pension is equivalent to 60% of the national average wage, while also insisting that a Labour government is not envisaging an increase in the pension age.