Investigations into a scheme that saw people fraudulently claim severe disability benefits have so far revealed that 160 may have received funds they were not entitled to, the prime minister said on Thursday.
Last week the Social Policy Ministry said that 141 people had been ordered to return a total of €2.1 million in severe disability assistance benefits.
Earlier this month, Times of Malta revealed how ex-Labour MP Silvio Grixti has been implicated in a years-long racket to help hundreds of people fraudulently receive monthly disability benefits they were not entitled to.
Evidence indicated Grixti, a popular family doctor, provided false medical documents to help people, often hailing from Labour strongholds like Żabbar, Żejtun and Paola, to receive monthly social benefits for severe disabilities they did not suffer from.
Customer care officials in several government ministries were also allegedly involved in the scheme.
When replying to questions, the prime minister said Sandro Craus, one of the officials allegedly involved, was no longer a customer care officer at the Office of the Prime Minister. He was doing good work as the Mayor of Rabat while working in another government entity, Abela said.
He also insisted that no serving official at Castille or Labour MP, past or present, had directed anyone to commit any irregularity. But, he said, perhaps the same question should be asked of Nationalist MPs.
Abela also insisted that he took action as soon as he became aware of the first case and referred the matter to the police. Nothing had been swept under the carpet and people had been prosecuted, he added.
He said he had also taken a political decision, asking Grixti to resign, but he was careful not to prejudice the police investigations.
According to answers to parliamentary questions published by The Shift, Grixti remained a consultant to various government departments after his resignation. When asked on Thursday why Grixti was given government consultancies despite the allegations, the prime minister did not address the issue.
So far it resulted that 160 may have received benefits they were not entitled to but this number could change as investigations continue, Abela said.
He also pointed out that the government had appointed an administrative inquiry into the case and the results would be debated in parliament. Any recommendations would be implemented.