Updated | Busuttil hits out at government’s ‘obscene’ excessive spending

PN leader Simon Busuttil says 2017 is a crucial year for people to decide whether it was acceptable to be led by a corrupt government

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has hit at the government for spending €250 million in excess of its budget, insisting that the “government's corruption and populism” meant that 2017 was the year in which people had to decide whether it was acceptable to be led by a corrupt government.

Speaking in Hamrun, the PN leader said it was “obscene” that the government and its inner circle squandered public funds, while people struggled to make ends meet, and urged the country to take Malta back from the clutches of those in Castille.

“They emptied the state’s coffers and spent sums of money in supplementary funds. They used the money to buy the people, appoint persons on positions of trust, squander money on consultancies; all this while people were struggling to make ends meet and while cancer patients having to beg to the Malta Community Chest Fund,” he said.

Busuttil’s remarks were made in the wake of a MaltaToday report which revealed how more than €250 million of supplementary funds were approved to cover excess recurrent and capital expenditure. A cursory look at the excessive spending showed how the Office of the Prime Minister had originally been allocated €640,000 expenses, only for it to request a further €1.6 million during the year, thereby bringing the total of its travel expenses to a staggering €2.24 million.

Addressing the PN’s first political activity of 2017, the PN leader compared Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and de facto energy minister Konrad Mizzi as the Three Kings – the three men who according to the bible visited Jesus after his birth bearing gifts.

“Just like the Three Kings, the three politicians as Castille travelled afar and had a clear roadmap. This roadmap took our Three Kings to Azerbiajan to buy fuel and end up losing the taxpayer €14 million, to Shanghai to sell the country’s power station, and to Dubai to stay at the best hotel and devour the minibar. They then went to Panama to open their secret accounts,” the PN leader quipped.

Hitting out at the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri and minister without portfolio Konrad Mizzi for “squandering public funds”, the Opposition leader said people were shouldering the price of a populist government.

“While we went through Istrina to collect €5 million for the Community Chest Fund, the budget allocated to these Three Kings was not enough and at the stroke of a pen, they were allocated an additional €8 million,” he said.

“The question is no longer whether this is the most corrupt government in Malta’s history because we already know that, but the question is whether it is acceptable to be led by such a corrupt government,” Busuttil underlined.

Accusing the government of leading a populist government which hijacked public institutions, allowed corruption to reign, and embarked on systematic attacks to suppress those who disagreed with it, the PN leader said 2017 had to be the year in which people “took their country back.”

The PN leader said the two audits into the financial affairs of minister Konrad Mizzi had not been published, fueling suspicions of wrongdoing, and said that it was still not yet known whether Mizzi had closed his Panama account.

“The results of the audit are irrelevant because we all know that is wrong for a minister to open a secret offshore account in Panama … Had Konrad Mizzi been a PN minister, he would have been gone months ago,” he said.

The PN leader said a Nationalist administration led by him would not hijack the country’s institutions and would not stifle the police’s investigations, and would not discriminate against anyone.

“To those who believe that I am not forceful enough, I tell you. I choose not to stamp my feet and not to shout but I can promise you integrity, determination and honesty. I promise you a serious and clean leadership… This is the difference between myself and Joseph Muscat. I urge people to join our coalition against corruption and give the country back to the people,” he continued.

PL reaction

In a reaction, the Labour Party said Simon Busuttil was a weak leader and was being controlled by his inner circle.

“Simon Busuttil is a leader who is being blackmailed by his own people. This was confirmed by the party’s star candidate Salvu Mallia who has threatened to walk away from the PN if any attempts were made to silence him,” it said.

Hitting at Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi, the Labour Party said the PN shadow minister had met developer Zaren Vassallo ahead of a 2012 transfer which saw the site of the former Lowenbrau brewery sold at 1990 prices – a mere €706,400 – instead of the €8 million it was valued at when the transfer was made.

“If there was ever any proof as to what good governance means under the Nationalist Party, the country should simply understand the scandal behind the transfer of the Lowenbrau brewery. It is for this reason that Simon Busuttil is afraid of Jason Azzopardi. This case higlights Simon Busuttil’s lack of credibility,” it said.

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