Parliament to discuss board's investigation into disability benefits scheme upon conclusion

In reply to the Opposition's request, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne says board's investigation into the alleged abuse in the severe disability benefits scheme will be immediately tabled and scheduled for a debate in Parliament upon conclusion

The board's investigation and conclusion into the alleged abuse in the severe disability benefits scheme will be immediately tabled and discussed in parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne confirmed on Sunday.

“The government has already appointed a board to evaluate the award of the severe disability benefit. This board's report will be immediately tabled and scheduled for a debate in Parliament,” Fearne said.

In reply to the Opposition, Fearne said the PN's letter was baseless and ignored the most basic facts.

Former Labour MP Silvio Grixti implicated in long-running disability benefit fraud scheme. (Photos of documents: Times of Malta)
Former Labour MP Silvio Grixti implicated in long-running disability benefit fraud scheme. (Photos of documents: Times of Malta)

The leader of the House also recalled that it was Prime Minsiter Robert Abela himself, who, back in 2021, had referred the case to the police. 

“This is the best proof that OPM is not willing to tolerate any illegality, contrary to the allegations the leader of the Opposition was making in his letter,” he added.

On Sunday morning, the Nationalist Party sent a letter to the speaker of the House, saying it wants parliament to meet in an emergency session on Monday to address the ongoing benefit fraud scandal.

The PN said this scandal has “unfairly favoured the Labour Party at the expense of the Maltese and Gozitans.”“These benefits were being inappropriately disbursed by the Labour government,” the PN reiterated.

The Sunday Times of Malta last Sunday revealed the details of the social benefit fraud perpetrated by former Labour MP Silvio Grixti, who resigned from parliament in December 2021 when the case first emerged.

Grixti used to provide people with a package of falsified medical certificates and documents, which they later used to claim severe disability benefits amounting to more than €400 per month. 

The fraudulent exercise benefitted around 800 people, with police charging the beneficiaries with social benefit fraud.

In a letter addressed to the Speaker, PN leader Bernard Grech, characterised the situation as "unprecedented."

Grech emphasised that the recent revelations, brought to light through investigative journalism, strongly suggest the existence of a corrupt operation stemming from Castille, the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Parliament should meet and if the Prime Minister really had democracy at heart, the matter should be debated with urgency in Parliament as soon as possible,” the PN said.

'A scandal that will not stop," Metsola calls for zero-tolerance to corruption

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola called for zero-tolerance to corruption describing the benefit fraud scandal as one “that will not stop”.

“This scandal is as rotten as we thought... what lurks beneath is vast and organised. It's corruption designed to defraud the most vulnerable.” Metsola posted on her Facebook on Sunday,

Metsola said that the corruption behind the benefit fraud scheme, is systematically organised, at the highest levels of government, to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

“We've seen more attempts to sweep it under the carpet. To cover up. To protect those at the top. It's the same playbook Malta and Gozo have endured for the last decade.”

This, Metsola said, is what happens when corruption is allowed to continue unabated, when the crooks are protected, and when politics is seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card. 

“Enough. We need zero-tolerance for corruption. We need politicians who protect the public interest. Those who don't, must be held accountable. We need to clean up the system. And we will,” she said.