Updated | ‘Ample evidence’ for Bartolo to take action and resign – Simon Busuttil

Simon Busuttil insists there was ample evidence for education minister Evarist Bartolo to take action against former FTS procurement officer Edward Caruana, says minister must resign immediately • Labour decry Busuttil's negativity

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has insisted that there was “ample evidence” for Education minister Evarist Bartolo to take immediate action following corruption allegations against Edward Caruana, the minister’s person of trust and former procurement officer of the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools (FTS).

Speaking to the Nationalist faithful in Sliema, Busuttil lambasted the education minister for claiming that he did not have the “smoking gun” to take action against Caruana when the former FTS procurement officer had built an extensive property in Gozo.

Bartolo’s remarks were made in the wake of a MaltaToday report which revealed how an ongoing police investigation in the FTS scandal is focusing on a link between the property in Rabat, and Caruana’s role is on ordering works at schools in Gozo. Though the police have not yet called Caruana in, they have actively investigated the serious discrepancies arising from works not carried out – but paid for by the FTS – in Gozo at the summer of 2015.

“If this isn’t a smoking gun, then I don’t know what is. This is a smoking cannon,” Busuttil said.

Referring to media reports that Caruana had hand-delivered nearly €9 million worth of cheques to contractors and suppliers at the time he is alleged to have taken commissions, Busuttil said the education minister was aware of this.

“Evarist Bartolo knew that Caruana would personally deliver these cheques, and now it has emerged that the police are investigation contracts which were not even carried out. There were also false quotations, forged signatures, and reports that Caruana had asked for commissions,” he said.

Insisting that this was ample evidence for Bartolo to take action against Caruana, the PN leader blasted the education minister for lying. Bartolo had said that he got to know of the alleged corruption at the end of August 2016, only for him to change his version to say he had been informed of the corruption allegations since April 2016.

In addition, last week MaltaToday reported that Bartolo was warned in February 2015 of allegations of impropriety in procurement procedures at the FTS involving Edward Caruana.

“Normally, in a democratic country, the politician would take the honourable decision and make way for more competent people. What has been revealed is nothing short of obscene,” Busuttil decried.

The PN leader said Bartolo had refused to resign and was now seeking shelter from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

The Opposition leader said the latest FTS scandal was the latest in a series of scandals which have rocked the government, and where the government rarely took action.

Starting off his speech by quoting the Prime Minister in saying that the government would continue, “to strengthen the fight against corruption”, Busuttil said Muscat had not only failed the test, but instead gave his blessing to the scandals.

Starting off with the Gaffarena scandal – which culminated in the resignation of Michael Falzon as lands parliamentary secretary – Busuttil said this was “peanuts” when compared with the Panama Papers scandal.

“In March, the mother of all scandals erupted after it was revealed that [minister] Konrad Mizzi and [OPM chief of staff] Keith Schembri had opened offshore companies in Panama, a country synonymous with money laundering and the parking of wealth derived form illicit activities.”

“Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schmebri were caught out lying after they said they had set up the trust in New Zealand to manage their family’s financial assets, only for it to then transpire that they opened the companies for commissions … The scandal was made worse by the lack of police action and the prime minister’s claim that he had taken action,” he said.

Lambasting the government for turning the judiciary into a “farce” after the appointment of former PL deputy leader Toni Abela and Caroline Farrugia Frendo as judge and magistrate respectively, the PN leader also hit out at the LNG tanker, the taking over of three Maltese hospitals by Vitals Global Healthcare, the issuance of medical visas, and the Paceville masterplan.

Paying tribute to Archbishop Charles Scicluna for “leading by example”, Busuttil insisted that it was a travesty that the Church had to foot the bill to ensure that workers employed under government scheme received equal work for their work.

“The government gave its blessing for 600 workers to be exploited and treated and slaves. Despite its pledge that it is a union fighting precarious employment, the GWU is making a profit of about €100,000 a month on all workers,” he said.

“The Prime Minister tells us that he has taken action, but he hasn’t taken any. The worst of it all is that he tells us this with a straight face,” Dr Busuttl said. 

David Thake: Evarist Bartolo ‘personally responsible’ for FTS scandal

Earlier, PN candidate David Thake called on Evarist Bartolo to resign immediately after having been responsible for appointment former FTS procurement officer Edward Caruana.

“Evarist Bartolo was caught out lying after he admitted that he got to know of the allegations first in April, not August. Evarist Bartolo said he wanted more information to proceed, but now it is a question of whether the minister attempted to cover up the truth,” he said while speaking to at a PN activity in Sliema.

“Bartolo is personally responsible for Edward Caruana: he [Bartolo] made Caruana responsible for tenders and procurement at FTS, appointed him on a position of trust basis and gave him unbridled access,” Thake said.

“The only thing for Bartolo to do was resign and make room for more competent people. He failed in his responsibility, and he must therefore shoulder responsibility,” Thake underlined.

PL reaction

In a reaction, the Labour Party hit at Simon Busuttil’s “negativity” and insisted that he is part of the political establishment.

“This year was a positive year for all the country, especially for the pensioners, disabled people, and people who are struggling to make ends meet, yet Busuttil chose to attack all those institutions which went against his ways and against his establishment,” he said.

“Busuttil believes in tribal politics and he thinks that the power of the establishment cannot be touched … However, the country ignores the politics of the establishment and Simon Busuttil’s negativity as it believes in a strong economy,” the PL said.

More in National