Update 3 - Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said this evening that he found the calling of a magisterial inquiry into fuel consumption by his official car as 'very strange,' coming a day after he presented a document on good governance and a week after he contested a ruling by the Speaker.
Speaking at a press conference, Dr Busuttil said his office had compared his car's consumption with three cars of the same make, and found that consumption was the same.
On average, he said, he used about €70 a week on fuel, which was to be expected given his engagements. He never exceeded the fuel allowance given to him by parliament.
The inquiry is being carried out at the request of the Speaker, Anglu Farrugia.
The Opposition leader's car is provided by parliament. The driver is chosen by the leader of the opposition but paid for by parliament.
In a statement (see below) the Labour Party said Dr Busuttil was involved in a serious case of fraud of public funds just a day after announcing his document on standards in public life. It called on his to assume his political responsibilities.
The Nationalist Party said earlier this afternoon that as soon as Dr Busuttil learnt about the inquiry, he presented an application in court making himself available for any information that may be requested. He said that he too wanted to know what had happened, as soon as possible.
Dr Busuttil also wrote to the Speaker asking him to immediately suspend the driver attached to him, pending the conclusion of the inquiry.
When contacted Speaker Anglu Farrugia said the issue was raised after Parliament's accounts section reported possible discrepancies between fuel consumption and the registered mileage.
He said he did not know the amounts involved.
He said the Leader of the Opposition had offered all assistance and collaboration in the investigation.
Dr Farrugia said Dr Busuttil's driver has been suspended at Dr Busuttil's request.
The PN said the Opposition leader's prompt action was in stark contrast to the way the prime minister had not acted despite allegations against Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg regarding permits issued on his property near Rabat.
See Dr Busuttil's application on pdf below.
DRIVER DENYING WRONGDOING
In a press conference later, Dr Busuttil said he still did not know what the case exactly was about, but his driver was denying any wrongdoing.
Dr Busuttil said that over the past two weeks the Office of the Speaker had been asking questions about the car's consumption and his office answered all the questions and submitted photos of the dashboard instruments. He was not involved and he was never informed of any inquiry by the police or a magistrate.
He said he found this case 'very strange' not least that this inquiry was revealed a day after a presented a policy document on good governance and a week after he presented a motion contesting a ruling by the Speaker.
He said consumption verifications had been made by his office with three cars of the same type and the consumption was the same.
Fuel consumption by his car about €70 a week, which was not high given his engagements. Just this evening he had three engagements between Qawra, San Gwann and Rabat.
The consumption, he said, had not exceeded his allowance of 250 litres per month , Dr Busuttil said.
He therefore found it very strange that an inquiry had been called without proper checking having been made.
Replying to questions, Dr Busuttil said comparison of consumption could not be made with the Speaker's car because he had far more engagements than the Speaker.
When asked by One TV whether he would deny that his fuel allowance was being used by Net TV cars, Dr Busuttil vehemently denied the allegation and said the allegation was libelous and he would not allow the government to harm his reputation in this way.
LABOUR INSISTS BUSUTTIL MUST SHOULDER RESPONSIBILITYFOR 'SERIOUS CASE'
In a statement, the Labour Party said Dr Busuttil had chosen his own driver and he was therefore responsible for a serious error of judgement.
It noted that 24 hours after he announced a document on standards in public life, Dr Busuttil was embroiled in a serious cause of fraud of public funds, a case about which he had known for a few days. These were the only public funds he was responsible for.
Had the case been in reverse, Dr Busuttil would already be seeking the resignation of the politician involved.
Using his yardstick, Dr Busuttil now needed to shoulder his political responsibility.
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