Labour insists Wasteserv recruitment under PN administration different to 2017

A cache of leaked emails published by MaltaToday showed the Opposition’s hypocrisy, Labour MP Robert Abela said

Labour MPs Robert Abela (left) and Alex Muscat (right)
Labour MPs Robert Abela (left) and Alex Muscat (right)

The Labour Party has insisted that leaked emails dating back to the last Nationalist legislature, showing Nationalist MPs interfering in recruitment at Wasteserv, could not be compared to a spike in recruits at the agency before the last general election.

Tuesday’s PAC meeting, which was meant to continue investigating recruitmet at the agency in the run-up to the 2017 election, was overshadowed by MaltaToday’s publication of a cache of emails dating back to the last Nationalist legislature, showing the three MPs interfering in recruitment at the same agency.

Labour MP Robert Abela, who is member on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that above all, the emails showed the Opposition’s hypocrisy.

“The Opposition requested that the Public Accounts committee investigate recruitment before the 2017, and now we find out that they when it was in government it did what it is accusing the present government of doing,” said Abela, who stopped short of describing the then Nationalist administrations actions as corrupt.

“It’s either bad for everyone or it isn’t, but the Opposition can’t judge things with different standards depending on what suits it.”

Abela was addressing a press conference with Alex Muscat, another PAC member. Asked whether he believed the type of behavior exhibited by the MPs in question was bad, Abela stressed that what had happened before 2013 was different to recruitment before the 2017 election.

He said the emails showed that there was pressure on MP Marthese Portelli - who at the time was a director at Wasteserv – by the Office of the Prime Minister, to engage people who weren’t needed at the agency. 

Abela emphasized that Wasteserv CEO Tonio Montebello had even said that during the last legislature, he had never experienced political pressure to recruit individuals.

Asked about what could be done going forward, given that clientelism, was a mainstay of Maltese politics, Muscat again stressed that the there were clear differences between the two cases.

He noted that one email even showed that standards for recruitment at the agency had been lowered during the 2008-2013 legislature, a clear example of political interference in an entity that is meant to be independent.

Moreover, he said Montebello had presented the committee with a Human Resources management plan, which clearly showed the employees were needed, and that Wasteserv would need to employ even more people during this year.

Delia lowering Nationalist Party’s standards

The two MPs also said that the fact that Beppe Fenech Adami stated yesterday that he had the backing of party leader Adrian Delia, also meant that the Nationalist Party had lowered its standards under the leadership of Adrian Delia.

“When during the last legislature, Tonio Fenech was PAC chairman and it became clear that he was going to be placed under the committee’s scrutiny, he had recused himself,” said Muscat. “Beppe Fenech Adami on the other hand will remain there. The fact that Adrian Delia also said it himself and is trying to minimize the issue is very worrying.”

Delia also said he was prepared to sit down and discuss any system to stop abusive employment by the government of the day that amounted to corrupt practices.

Abela said that before any discussion could take place, the Opposition first needed to take a unified poisiton on the matter, rather than have “Delia’s Opposition” say one thing, and “Fenech Adami’s Opposition” another.

Nationalist government abused vulnerable people

Earlier in the day, former Resources minister George Pullicino’s chief of staff Ray Bezzina in comments to Lovin Malta, said admitted that the email cache betrayed clientelism and nepotism but insisted that the jobs in question were not exactly desirable jobs, and were given to people who tended to be social cases, or people who were desperate for a job.

The comments, said Musact, were an attempt at justifying the behaviour.

“Now we are seeing that this system of abuse was literally there for [the Nationalist administration] to abuse of vulnerable people.”