Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranked Malta in the 37th place with a 5.6 score, and 20th out of 30 countries that included EU member states, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. New EU entrants Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus were ahead of Malta.

Speaking during the debate in Parliament on changes to the Permanent Commission Against Corruption Act, Mr Brincat said Malta had obtained averages of 5.2, 5.6 and 5.8 in the last three years. A country with an average of 10 was one which was free of corruption, and countries such as Cyprus, Estonia and Portugal were ranked higher than Malta.

Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption and aims to create change towards a world free of corruption.

With regard to good governance, Malta had been better placed in 2005, when the country ranked 25th.

This agency based its statistics on perception and, therefore, contrary to what the Prime Minister had said, perception was important.

The Permanent Commission Against Corruption had neither curbed nor eradicated corruption. On the contrary, corruption had seeped through all institutions. No lawmaker had ever resigned from the Cabinet, from Parliament or from any parastatal company because of allegations of corruption. Instead, there were people who had been involved in selling government assets to the private sector and in turn had ended up working in the same agency they had helped to buy such family silver.

Even ministers who had been accused of corruption had referred the whistleblowers to the commission while they got away scot free. This commission was not serving its purpose. Lack of transparency existed in all sectors, but the commission was not investigating.

It seemed the country had forgotten that transparency had to be standard practice. The practice in Gozo had been that the same contractors were entrusted with all the tenders dealing with road infrastructure, leaving no chance for new applicants. Moreover, there were clear cases that Malta had been, more than once, a victim of cartel bidding.

Having an efficient commission against corruption was important. When institutions did not fight corruption, they led one to believe that good governance did not exist. Moreover, citizens would lose their trust in the political class. In fact, Mr Brincat said, after the recent cases of corruption in various local councils, the electorate might not feel confident enough to vote.

The opposition had to help in the eradication of corruption. Mr Brincat recalled that Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat had proposed the elimination of time-barring. For the past 15 years the opposition had advocated the creation of a special prosecutor – a suggestion which was only now being implemented.

High fees accompanying tenders were leading people to reason that it was not feasible to bid when the likelihood was that companies that filed their tender were chosen beforehand.

It was the government’s fault that the commission was not successful and that people had lost their trust in the system. It was not true that people did not appreciate the work being done. The commission was not making any headway. Corruption was not institutionalised, but was structural and was even found in the private sector.

For the commission to work effectively, it had to work for more transparency on the political, economic and cultural levels. Mr Brincat called for a reform and modernisation of the Contracts Department.

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