PM accuses Busuttil of double standards after NAO report against Chris Said

Prime Minister accuses PN leader Simon Busuttil of double standards after damning NAO report says Chris Said ‘impinged’ on committee’s decisions for road surfacing funds

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil employed different standards against Nationalist MPs Chris Said and Toni Bezzina while he wanted heads to roll on the basis of mere allegations against Labour MPs, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

Speaking during a brief interview on One Radio, the prime minister said Busuttil applied a different yardstick for Nationalist MP Chris Said after he stood by the former junior minister, even though a damning report by the Auditor General flagged an unwarranted intervention in the councils’ funding schemes.

Muscat’s comments come in the wake of a report by the National Audit Office which this week reported that former PN junior minister Chris Said ‘impinged’ on committee’s decisions for road surfacing funds. The NAO argued that Said had involved himself in the distribution of funds to local councils for roadworks projects between 2008 and 2013 as he interfered in the shortlisting of applications, evaluation of submissions and determination of funds allocated.

Nationalist MP Chris Said has maintained that his role was to provide general direction, and has insisted that he never interfered to have funds withdrawn or to allocate more funds to one council to the detriment of others.

Moreover, notwithstanding the report by the Auditor General, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has stood by his MP, arguing that he believed Said and that his decision to give direction proved beneficial to residents as there had been no misuse of funds.

However, Busuttil’s backing of Said was met by disdain by the Labour Party and on Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the Opposition leader employed different standards.

“Whenever there was a report by the Auditor General on any of the government’s members, Busuttil used such reports to attack the government. The government took this in its stride, and never attacked the Auditor General or the NAO. Simon Busuttil, on the other hand, is disputing the report,” Muscat said.

The prime minister argued that despite the NAO declaring that it had reservations over documentation presented by Said, Busuttil had still disputed the report and it was clear that Said had interfered in the distribution of funds for local councils, a matter which involved millions.

Conversely, when the NAO published its report on the interference made by former energy minister Konrad Mizzi in oil hedging, Busuttil opted to ignore the fact that Mizzi’s interference resulted in cheaper fuel prices.

“It is clear that Simon Busuttil applies different standards for his people. He wanted heads to roll over mere allegations against some people, but then did not act against Toni Bezzina when the Nationalist MP lost a libel case where it was alleged that he ordered government workers to work in a PN club during working hours,” he said.

Muscat explained that Busuttil had also applied different standards in the case against Victoria Mayor Samuel Azzopardi, after the latter was reinstated even though a court had found him guilty of drink-driving.

Turning to the economy, Muscat explained that now that the economy was strong, its next challenge would be to ensure a just redistribution of wealth for those who struggled to make ends meet.

The prime minister explained that Malta’s strong economic results were confirmed by both ordinary people as well as by international credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, who this week affirmed Malta’s positive outlook as it said it expects the eventual Brexit impact on Malta to be ‘relatively contained’.

Muscat said people could feel the change and had more financial freedom thanks to the reduction of utility tariffs and the stability in fuel prices. The prime minister said Malta now had one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union, with the fastest growing Labour force and record low unemployment.

“People might say they are not interested in the economy, but without a strong economy, the government’s measures, including the reduction in electricity and water tariffs, would all have been wishful thinking,” he said.

“The government is now determined to keep the momentum going and it must now ensure that the wealth is redistributed fairly among those who worked hard and those who struggle to make ends meet and those who cannot work,” he continued.

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