The Foreign Ministry had taken action to tighten up procedures for the issue of visas to Algerians well before the shortcomings were flagged by the National Audit Office, minister Carmelo Abela said on Tuesday.
Responding in Parliament to a question by MP Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, Dr Abela said that his ministry would continue to analyse the parts of the report relevant to his ministry which were “not speculative”, so as to improve consular operations.
The NAO report, ‘An Investigation of Visa issued by the Maltese Consulate in Algiers’, was commissioned by the Public Accounts Committee in November 2015, after an Algerian travel agent had alleged that irregular payments were made by visa applicants for preferential treatment.
No evidence was provided in support of these claims and following referral to the Algerian Police by the travel agent, nothing illegal was established. The alleged wrongdoing did not involve the consul.
The investigation covered the period between March 2014 and September 2015. During this period, 14,640 applications were received, of which 6,779 were issued a visa while 7,589 were refused.
Dr Abela said that the NAO report itself had said the ministry acted appropriately when allegations of wrongdoing surfaced, and that a September 2016 report by the European Commission had only found some operational irregularities.
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