The institutions in this country work so well – if you take Robert Abela’s word for it – that a man receiving a disability benefit can also work as a minister’s driver though claiming to be suffering from epilepsy.

Four others supposedly suffering from the same condition are taxi drivers.

A woman claiming her limbs were “permanently and totally paralysed” walks normally for an interview with the medical board, which duly approves her request for disability benefits.

Evidently, the system of checks and balance ensuring only the truly deserving receive benefits has been disabled, in this case by design.

So many scandals have been unearthed over these past few years that very little seems to surprise anymore. And there lies the danger. 

The disability racket gives rise to serious social implications because money supposedly allocated for a specific cause went to the undeserved

In a scenario where institutions that matter – like the police and the attorney general – drag their feet, with time running out and crime risking becoming time-barred, society in general and NGOs in particular have a major role to play.

The disability racket gives rise to serious social implications because money supposedly allocated for a specific cause went to the undeserved. 

It is another classic example of widespread impunity. Ineligible beneficiaries told the police they were assured they had nothing to worry about so long as Labour remained in power.

It highlights the manner in which politicians abuse their position and dominate civil servants and political appointees.

It shows how the power of incumbency throws the door wide open for corrupt practices. Undeserving recipients themselves linked the scandal to vote buying.

These are all issues that should have made the police force, the Attorney General’s Office, the Electoral Commission and the medical council sprint into action. 

Yet, though many beneficiaries were marched to court after former Labour MP Silvio Grixti was forced to resign every effort was made to protect the real culprits.

It was only when Times of Malta exposed the scandal that some form of action started to happen and then, reluctantly too. Grixti and four others were charged earlier this month, more than two years since he stepped down, even if the earliest recorded case dates back to 2016.

The police and the Attorney General have a lot to answer for. More so, the prime minister who is so quick to look at the speck in other people’s eye but not the plank in his own eye.

Abela would have us believe it was Castille that “revealed” the scam and reporting it to the police. Grixti did announce his resignation in December 2021 but we were never given an explanation why he stepped down. 

Everything suggests the prime minister had no real intention of taking the bull by the horns. It was, after all, on the eve of the general election. 

What only happened was taking undeserving beneficiaries to court and making them pay back what they received. 

However, the real scoundrels – those wielding power and others paid by the people to serve them and ensure systems in place work well – remained protected.

That changed when Times of Malta lifted the lid on the fraud. We are committed to continue fulfilling our duty as the fourth pillar of democracy – de facto, at this stage, because, in his characteristic l’État, c’est moi mindset, Abela would not have that become de iure as he prefers to remain in control.

Ultimately, it is society, and that includes the independent media and NGOs, that must ensure the rule of law does not become the reign of delinquents, even if sadly, more people are becoming immune to the weekly scandals. 

People’s indifference is the best breeding ground for corruption to grow.

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