The scandal which surfaced the other week concerns another of Ian Borg’s arrogant bulldozing activities. This time, it is not the bulldozing of carob trees in Dingli or the destruction of agricultural land in Qormi, Burmarrad or Dingli, or even entering into private property in Tal-Balal, or destroying the idyllic valley of Wied Qirda or the country lane in Dwejra running parallel to the Victoria Lines

This time, the story revolves around the granting of a lucrative contract to a student who was not even a lawyer at the time.

The contract was handed over through a direct order and not through public competition. The lucky recipient of this contract was the daughter of one of Borg’s close associates, his best men at his wedding.

This scandal which hit the papers, concerning the young (non-) lawyer’s lucrative salary that amounted to more than an initial €62,000 and, ultimately, to a total of €108,000, is just the tip of the clientelistic and nepotistic iceberg for which, now, Borg is universally renowned.

In fact, Adreana Zammit not only happens to be the daughter of Ian’s close friend but, lo and behold, her papa hails from Żebbuġ... which forms part of Borg’s constituencies made up mainly of Dingli, Rabat, Mtarfa, Mġarr, Żebbuġ, Luqa, Siġġiewi and Qormi.

Under Borg, Transport Malta has indeed been transformed into nothing less than an extension of the seventh district.  Since 2013, there has been a tsunami of one new employee after another from this district, leading many to wonder whether a Dingli residency is more of a necessary prerequisite than other qualifications or transport expertise/knowledge, to be employed with Transport Malta.

After the 2017 elections, the staff at Transport Malta has exploded from around 500 employees at that time to around 800 employees now. A difference of approximately 300 people, an increase of around 60 per cent in just 36 months.

In other countries, this would be considered a very dubious practice at best and a corrupt one at worst. It is very hard to believe that the only persons who are qualified to work with Transport Malta mostly hail from the minister’s districts or have connections and ties with important officials.

Meritocracy is not the first point on Ian Borg’s priority list. The seventh (and fourth) district qualification is- Arnold Cassola

The extent of this electoral district phenomenon is extensive and surreal. It seems that ever so many Dingli residents are employed with Transport Malta or Infrastructure Malta,  a sub-fiefdom, run by Borg’s henchman, Frederick Azzopardi. Take the Dingli local council. Of the five local councillors in Dingli, the deputy mayor is an officer at Borg’s Ministry of Transport and another Labour councillor is a foreman at Infrastructure Malta. Even the only opposition PN councillor, who does provide some valid opposition, is an architect at Infrastructure Malta. The deputy mayor’s former girlfriend, a lawyer at Infrastructure Malta, headed the minister’s marketing campaign in the recent past.

At Transport Malta, things are equally blatant. Here, internal vacancies are being issued like cheesecakes. The requirements are usually less than basic and a university degree is very rarely required.

Special people shoot up the corporate ladder at lightning speed. The deputy chief officer  (obviously from Borg’s constituency) was appointed to this top post after a few months of having joined the authority, allegedly after having had to leave the Lands Authority. 

The Transport Malta’s chairman’s niece, though not from the constituency, also left the Lands Authority and landed on Transport Malta’s doorstep. She was made director in a few months. Other top posts in the directorate are occupied by persons hailing from Borg’s electoral districts.

Basically, most top-level positions at Transport Malta have been levied onto Borg’s ‘ħbieb tal-ħbieb’. New recruits are made senior manager in a few months if their CV presses the right tabs!

Does this mean that there are no qualified people at Transport Malta? Of course not: indeed, there are some highly qualified ones. But if you do not hail from the seventh or fourth district, you start off with a real handicap. Meritocracy is not the first point on Borg’s priority list. The seventh (and fourth) district qualification is.

Will the Baron of Dingli Cliffs keep on getting away with all this?

Unfortunately, the way things are turning out in this country, we still have a long way to go before such people are rightly given the ‘Order of the Boot’.

Arnold Cassola, independent candidate, ex secretary general, European Greens

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