[WATCH] Jason Azzopardi shot his own party in the foot over tuna investigation, Labour says

Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi’s publication of a 2010 investigation into the fisheries sector exposes how the PN government hid the information, Clint Camilleri insists

Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri said the report tabled in parliament by PN MP Jason Azzopardi (inset top) on the fisheries sector was done in 2010 and despite its findings Azzopardi had taken Andreina Fenech Farrugia under his wing
Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri said the report tabled in parliament by PN MP Jason Azzopardi (inset top) on the fisheries sector was done in 2010 and despite its findings Azzopardi had taken Andreina Fenech Farrugia under his wing
Jason Azzopardi shot his own party in the foot, Labour says

Jason Azzopardi’s tabling of a 2010 report on an internal audit into the fisheries department exposes the fact that previous Nationalist government had hid an investigation's outcome instead of taking action, fisheries parliamentary secretary Clint Camilleri said.

Addressing a press conference together with Labour MEP candidate Josef Caruana on Thursday, Camilleri said the Nationalist Party MP had yesterday exposed the way in which his party operated when in government.

During Parliament's adjournment on Wednesday, Azzopardi tabled a 2010 Internal Audit and Investigations Department which was ordered after cases of non-compliance and lack of controls were flagged by the EU’s fisheries commissioner.  

Camilleri said that what Azzopardi had revealed underscored the difference between the last PN government and the present administration.

He insisted that while before 2013, problems and important investigations would be hidden, this contrasted with the way the current government operates, taking immediate action when it is made aware of any irregularities.

The government, he said, had ordered an internal inquiry when it was alerted to irregularities and had immediately implemented its recommendations. One recommendation, he noted, was introducing new controls requiring tuna to be weighed. 

“It was because of these additional checks that we have managed to detect a number of irregularities in tuna these farms,” he said. “Whenever we found irregularities, we issued instructions for fish to be let free, and informed the police and ordered an inquiry.”

Caruana said that what Azzopardi had done in parliament last night was exposed a political scandal that he himself, and the last Nationalist administration, were guilty of.

He said that Azzopardi's statements that there was an internal audit into the department going back nine years, showed that the problems (“tahwid”) at the department went back at least that long.

Caruana insisted that it appeared as though Azzopardi and the PN were the only ones that knew about the report, stressing that the report wasn’t in Fenech Farrugia’s file. 

He said this also applied to Fenech Farrugia’s transfer to the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA), a department which at the time fell under Azzopardi’s responsibility.

“One must ask why it took Jason Azzopardi ten years to make this report public,” Caruana said.

He also questioned why the MP had not mentioned the fact that Fenech Farrugia was transferred to a department he was politically responsible for.

Caruana again stressed that there was nothing about the reasons for Fenech Farrugia’s transfer in her file.

“What changed between 2012 and 2013? In 2012 he didn’t react when this person was a director of enforcement at the MCCAA,” Caruana said, accusing Azzopardi of double standards.

Fenech Farrugia selected by the Public Service Commission

In Parliament yesterday, Azzopardi also implied that there was a pre-election agreement with Fenech Farrugia that would see her returned to the department when Labour returned to power. Camilleri denied this was the case.

Azzopardi also cited minutes from a 2013 meeting between Malta’s previous permanent representative to the EU Marlene Bonnici and EU Maritime Affairs and Fisheries director-general Lowri Evans, in which Evans states how pleased she was with the improvement made by the Maltese fisheries.

The memo reveals that the European Commission's director-general for fisheries and maritime affairs Lowri Evans had remarked in a meeting with Malta's permanent representative Marlene Bonnici, saying that “compared to two years ago, the situation of the Maltese fishery is ‘completely transformed’” and that DG MARE was “delighted by the progress attained by the Maltese control authorities” – Evans said that the situation two years earlier had put “the Maltese fishery… in a very bad place”.

Asked why the government had felt the need to remove veteran civil servant Joseph Caruana, who oversaw this improvement, Camilleri insisted that the decision had been taken by the Public Service Commission.

“Fenech Farrugia was chosen by the same Public Service Commission there was under the Nationalist administration. When this was contested in court, the court agreed with the selection of Fenech Farrugia, even because she was the most competent and accredited person in the field.”

Pressed on why the need was felt for Caruana to be removed, Camilleri said that “the fact remains that when there was a previous vacancy, the PSC had chosen this person”.

Caruana pointed out that no government had denied Fenech Farrugia a public role, insisting that the IAID report existed since 2010 and the last PN government knew about it.

“She was a director under George Pullicino, then became a director under Jason Azzopardi, and everything remained at it was,” Caruana said.

Asked whether the present government was aware of the report, Caruana insisted there was nothing in Fenech Farrugia’s file. “Forget the report itself, there wasn’t even a reference to it.”

Camilleri suggested that questions about where the report was should be directed to Azzopardi.

In a statement released on Thursday, Fenech Farrugia insisted she had not been responsible for shortcomings flagged by the IAID.

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