Updated with Labour Party statement: 3:30pm
Nationalist leader Bernard Grech called out Prime Minister Robert Abela on Saturday, claiming that the PM is “willing to do anything to keep his power, including buying votes.”
“Abela does not play by the rules,” Grech said during a telephone interview on NET FM on Saturday morning.
The criticism comes after revelations that ex-Labour MP Silvio Grixti is being investigated in connection with a benefits racket that saw hundreds of people get monthly severe disability benefits they were not entitled to, through forged documents.
Times of Malta revealed the years-long racket last week.
Some of the people introduced to the racket in 2019 and 2020 claimed that they were referred to Grixti by Labour MPs, ministers' aides and even customer care officials from the Prime Minister’s office.
“This is a scandalous situation that is growing by the minute, by the hour and by the day. And it is evident that Robert Abela has a national crisis on his hands,” Grech said on Saturday.
Speaking over the phone, Grech doubled down on his stance from last Sunday, calling for further investigations into the Prime Minister and his government who he said do not seem to be able to “play by the rules.”
“Whoever deserves these benefits should receive the benefits,” he said, emphasising that the Labour Party has adopted systems that have led to corrupt practices and, subsequently, the government losing control over its own country.
Abela said earlier this week that no current MPs were involved in the racket, which he says he learnt of in late 2021 and prompted Grixti's resignation from parliament.
A three-person board led by a retired judge to look into how the benefits were dished out was announced on Saturday.
The fraudulent monthly payments from the Social Security Department averaged around €450 per month. So far, some 141 people have been ordered to return a total of €2.1 million while hundreds of others are still under investigation.
“List a single sector where the government is in control,” Grech asked, moving the conversation onto the government’s failings in other sectors such as the rubbish crisis plaguing the island.
Health and tourism are also areas where the government has failed the country, he continued, recalling the hospitals’ scandal which saw a court annul the privatisation of three hospitals, declaring the deal to be “fraudulent”.
According to an investigation carried out by Times of Malta, taxpayers paid at least €355 million net to Vitals and Steward Healthcare while the hospitals under their care were left in disarray.
Maltese tourism has seen a recent slew of bad publicity. In August, British tabloid The Sun branded the country ‘Amsterdam-on-Sea’ while a recent Youtube video showing loads of mixed waste bags on the pavements in St Paul’s Bay told viewers to “avoid Malta”.
“Whoever is depending on the government for support, you will be left alone,” Grech said, claiming that every citizen’s right to a quality life is being ignored.
“It is evident that the PL has, within their hands, the chance to create change,” he said, but the government continues to ignore experts’, economists’ and even the opposition’s advice.
In a statement, the Labour Party said that if there was one rule the Prime Minister embraced it was 'seriousness'.
This was supported by the fact that the alleged case of abuse had been reported to the Prime Minister's own office and immediate political decisions had been taken, the statement read.
"This contrasted starkly to the Opposition Leader who remained silent whenever he had the most serious allegations around him," PL said.