TM racket: Abela encourages his cabinet to continue helping people with ‘legitimate needs’

Robert Abela says Ian Borg was doing what is expected of him by helping people pass their driving tests or bumping them up the waiting list • He also admits to 'helping people access medical tests'

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Prime Minister Robert Abela continues to defend minister Ian Borg for helping people pass their driving tests or moving them up the waiting list for their exam, despite three officials being charged with corruption for operating this racket.

Speaking during a press conference on a new national airline, Abela said that Borg was doing what was expected of him as a minister, which is to help people with “legitimate requests”.

“Every ministry has a number of officials, from the Office of the Prime Minister down to ministry secretariats, that are employed to assist the public, irrespective of their political beliefs, in their daily needs,” he said.

Abela also admitted that his office, as well as other minister’s offices, has helped people access medical tests, but insisted that only legitimate requests are adhered to.

He noted how Borg admitted to helping people, but only within the parameters of the law. “The minister just passed on names. The proof of the legality is in some of the candidates failing their tests,” he said.

Abela continued that the government needs to remain close to people’s needs, and went on to encourage his cabinet members to continue helping them in their legitimate needs. “This is a primary factor that has led to people putting their trust in our government.”

He also said that this style of customer care is characteristic to the Maltese political system, and is a benefit to the country.

“This is one of the primary functions of a politician in the Maltese political system. If people are saying this system is no longer beneficial to the country, then I would disagree. We are talking about the fundamental mechanisms of our political system.”

The Transport Malta racket

An investigation by the Times of Malta revealed extensive details of a racket through which Borg would forward the names of test candidates to Transport Malta’s director of licensing Clint Mansueto to help candidates at different stages of the licensing process.

Mansueto and two low-level Transport Malta clerks, Philip Edrick Zammit and Raul Antonio Pace, now face corruption and trading in influence in connection with the racket. They deny the charges.

Hundreds of candidates’ names were given to Mansueto to have their tests fast-tracked and even for “help” to secure a driving licence, and advising the candidates not to allow their driving instructor to be present in the car during the practical exam, to facilitate the scheme. 

Over 11 government and Transport Malta officials showed knowledge of the scheme, such as current PBS chairman Mark Sammut, who as a former TM personnel, pushed Mansueto with requests about specific candidates. 

Later in the day, Borg took to Facebook to defend his actions and said he always advised the authority to operate within the parameters of the law.

He said that at a time when politicians are often criticised for being distant from the public, he is “proud for being accessible to everyone”.

In reaction to the scandal, Grech accused the government of providing a ‘license to kill’ in order to remain in power. “The scandal is shameful... they are playing with people’s lives. How can every person involved [in this racket] have a conscience to allow someone to drive on our roads when they know they are dangerous?.”