The past few days were characterised by two interesting developments that marked the high and low of local politics. On one hand we had the historical, ground-breaking parliamentary vote on the Civil Union Bill. On the other hand we also had the publication of the damning National Audit Office report of a series of procurement irregularities and bad practices that prevailed during the 2006-2012 period within Wasteserv under a Nationalist administration.
What I found worrying indeed is that in both instances the Opposition party chose to resort to Pontius Pilate politics by washing their hands of any responsibility and reacting in such a manner that many, including the independent media, found to be incomprehensible to say the least.
Of even bigger concern was the fact that in spite of ongoing efforts to give the impression that the PN had learnt the lesson of their massive electoral defeat, nothing has changed in their approach, mentality and mind set.
They have proven to one and all that the present leadership of the Nationalist Party is the PL’s not-so-hidden secret weapon.
Any attempts by the PN to reinvent itself vanished into thin air last week. Not only did their decision to abstain on such a crucial vote show that they remain anchored in deep conservatism, but it also exposed their recent attempt to portray themselves as an inclusive, equal opportunities party, that was moving to becoming more open, tolerant and modern, was just one big sham.
It is bad enough for a party to show that it is still struggling to find its way.
Even worse, ever since the change in leadership they have shown that they have actually lost their way. Possibly because of a deep directional divide.
There were instances in the past when either party might have proved to be on the wrong side of history but alarm bells must be ringing within the PN ranks for having been on the wrong side of history so many times in recent months. Only to prove that they are not fit for purpose to address the societal challenges and new realities on the ground.
The argument that society was not yet prepared for such changes as contemplated by the new law shows what a poor opinion the Nationalist Party has of Maltese civil society
They seem to have learnt nothing from the divorce referendum of 2011 which to my mind marked the beginning of the Nationalist government’s downfall.
The attempts by the PN-leaning media to rubbish the joyful, celebrating members of the gay community as an irresponsible lot, as well as the uncalled-for attack on the US ambassador for having joined the celebrations at St George’s Square when she was evidently there with the full approval of her government, as she invariably does when she attends Gay Pride events, merely goes to prove the PN is back to the days when it felt, looked like and acted like an ossified party. Yielding to the pressures of the darkest conservative forces within it.
The PN-leaning media’s concern with who actually organised and paid for the Valletta gay party, rather than probing the PN’s irresponsible behavior, made as little sense as the PN media’s reaction to the parliamentary vote, when they claimed that thanks to the abstention no one actually voted against the Bill in Parliament.
The argument that society was not yet prepared for such changes as contemplated by the new law shows what a poor opinion the Nationalist Party has of Maltese civil society. As well as being an insult to society itself.
So much for the Nationalist-leaning experts on other subjects – including those that might fall under my domain – who find it so convenient to resort to a patronising and holier than thou approach, by trying to play judge, prosecution and jury in a manner that they had never ever contemplated when previous ministers were in office. Particularly those who whom they interacted with on a first name basis.
As for the NAO report on Wasteserv procurement policies, it merely served to reconfirm our worst fears and suspicions as expressed when we were still on the Opposition benches.
Wasteserv not only showed carelessness in the issuing and handling of tenders to the point of repeating similar mistakes on three identical tenders, but the instances of prolonging the tendering process may have been triggered by far more than simple mishandling. It could have been a way and means to allow certain prospective applicants to achieve the qualifications set in the tenders.
The dismissive comments that these shortcomings were solely attributable to the company navigating through uncharted territory is mind boggling particularly when considering the various consultants involved.
The whole issue goes far beyond simple waste management bad practices. It concerns transparency, accountability and good governance. Or lack of it. Problematic and ambiguous tender instructions, radical changes to plant design just four days prior to the closing date for tender submissions, lack of accurate estimates and variations with failure to compensate for date extensions hint at something far beyond mere incompetence.
These past few days I have been inundated by e-mails and Facebook requests calling for further action on these abuses of public funds.
It is not my duty as Minister for the Environment to act as prosecutor.
The report, as in the case of the one by the Management Efficiency Unit on the malpractices involved in the rushed construction of the Marsascala Family Park, is in the public domain. So the ball is now entirely in the hands of others.
On my part I have made it clear both publicly and in meetings held with the people responsible that I am strongly committed and determined to ensure that I will do my utmost to put the peoples’ minds at rest, that such malpractices will not be allowed to repeat themselves under a Labour administration wherever I am responsible. Particularly since I am convinced that my government is equally committed to ensure such transparency.
Leo Brincat is environment minister.