Michael Falzon resigned as parliamentary secretary on the same day the NAO report was published but continued to deny any wrongdoing. Photo: Matthew MirabelliMichael Falzon resigned as parliamentary secretary on the same day the NAO report was published but continued to deny any wrongdoing. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The National Audit Office yesterday stood by its findings in the Gaffarena scandal, ignoring accusations made by Michael Falzon that its actions were politically motivated.

The constitutional body came under fire on Friday after the former parliamentary secretary accused it of vindictiveness, describing the report as “disgusting” (porkerija).

But the Office yesterday refused to engage in a debate on its findings. “What the NAO had to say was written in a 129-page report. The Office has nothing to add,” a spokesman said.

The report concluded there was collusion between officials at the Government Property Department, Dr Falzon and businessman Mark Gaffarena.

Dr Falzon resigned the same day the report was out but continued to deny wrongdoing, insisting he never got involved in the deal, first exposed by The Sunday Times of Malta eight months ago.

The scandal saw businessman Mr Gaffarena acquire €3.4 million in land and cash from the government for the expropriation of half a building in Valletta valued at some €900,000.

What the National Audit Office had to say was written ina 129-page report. The Office has nothing to add

In a scathing attack last Friday, Dr Falzon even pinpointed NAO chief investigator Keith Mercieca as the supposed culprit.

Ironically, Mr Mercieca had produced another damning report on Enemalta’s fuel procurement in which he took former Nationalist minister Austin Gatt to task.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has so far failed to distance himself from Dr Falzon’s tirade against the NAO and yesterday continued to insist the former parliamentary secretary was only defending himself.

Dr Falzon’s resignation was a show of respect to the NAO, Dr Muscat said when asked whether he agreed with Dr Falzon’s words.

Skirting the question, he said Dr Falzon shouldered the ultimate responsibility by resigning his office and was defending himself. Dr Muscat said his government respected the NAO and was acting on the findings by undertaking a reform of the property department.

“Michael Falzon shouldered responsibility unlike those in the Nationalist Party who in the past filed parliamentary motions asking for the NAO to be investigated.” The reference was to a motion filed by former minister Austin Gatt in 2006 who had taken the NAO to task after it found serious shortcomings in the way radio station Voice of the Mediterranean was being run.