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GUEST POST: End-of-Year Oscars In Maltese Public Life

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In a country that confuses meritocracy with mediocrity, it is fitting to award the best practitioners of this confusion during the year 2020. Here we go with our 2020 “Oscars” for such personalities and institutions in public life, complete with motivations for the winning candidates.

1. MFSA

Once more, MFSA has not failed to make it amongst the protagonists of the year. Like other regulatory bodies, after years of a “pro-business” attitude, it has now gone overboard and over-reacted with new draconian rules for regulated entities and with fines galore in a bid to make up for regulatory failures of previous years, and possibly to avoid Moneyval grey-listing.

And to crown the year’s accomplishments, before the curtain for the year has been drawn, MFSA found itself the object of stark criticism by the Auditor General in relation to its own corporate governance and procurement practices, which were found to lack transparency, with contracts awarded as if the Authority were the CEO’s fiefdom.

Its Board of Governors, made up of academician part-timers, has again proved to be a well behaved tame organ. It has continued to earn the prize for failing to act as a restraint against the excesses first of its former slimy chairman and later of the slicker lover-boy chief executive. Exception made for Joe Brincat who showed he had a spine.

2. Accountancy Board

Kudos to the Accountancy Board for the impeccable prioritisation of its regulatory functions in ensuring that it continues to guard so zealously the reputation of the profession, dedicating all its resources – without any letting-up – to making sure all warrant holders pay their annual fee of €25, lest they should lose their practising warrant for such serious bad conduct.

3. Outgoing Minister of Finance

Congratulations to Prof Scicluna for landing himself a job as Central Bank Governor in a new post which helps to compensate him for patriotically sacrificing his MEP Brussels financial package and sinecure.

How insensitive of the DCG Board of Inquiry that showed so little empathy with his predicament of risking having to resign and give up his ministerial financial package if he had not pretended to have noticed nothing wrong with what he now calls the Kitchen Cabinet.

4. Economy Minister Silvio Schembri

Silvio Schembri, whose ego trip in promoting cryptos and blockchain ended up in a coffin nailed by the new Finance Minister. Silvio Schembri championed this pseudo financial product as the panacea for the world’s ills.

The Malta Stock Exchange, the Institute of Financial Services Practitioners, Malta Enterprise, the University of Malta and MCAST all joined the bandwagon in trying to please and took one initiative after another in servile prodding of the official line. A host of law and accounting firms invested heavily in this blockchain island nonsense believing they had struck gold especially after observing financial adventurists from all over the world converging on Malta at widely publicised seminars.

5. Collective award to so many giving their testimony at the DCG Inquiry

The ability with which so many supposed guardians of the State blamed each other, their subordinates or their superiors, is hard to stomach. A bunch of men of straw unable to make proper use of their authority.

Witness for example the Minister of Finance shifting the onus for ensuring propriety at Enemalta, Electrogas and Projects Malta on his Permanent Secretary. And in turn the Permanent Secretary blaming PwC for putting the Ministry of Finance’s mind at rest that their due diligence in the run up to the Electrogas contract and Government guarantee was all in order.

6. Bank of Valletta

For the reputation it managed to build for itself, with one episode after another leaving its mark with their overseas bankers who continually monitor the risks of doing business with it. This has led to BOV receiving one notification after another of overseas banks closing their US$ correspondent accounts until in a few weeks it will have lost its last one at Raffaisen, with untold damage to ensue to Malta’s economy.

And to top it off, in spite of the Bank failing to pay an interim or final dividend for four times running, it has been brazen enough to introduce a share allotment remuneration policy for the Bank’s Executive Directors and senior management. Had the bank obliged itself to do this in someone’s contract of employment perhaps?

7. Justice Minister Zammit Lewis

No need to congratulate this Minister as he has already taken care to congratulate himself, commending himself for “taking giant steps in good governance in 10 months” with his achievements in Constitutional reforms, and this between one message and another on his notorious WhatsApp group.

These reforms were carried out after, ex admissio, duly consulting the general public over social media. Meno male that there has been Peter Omtzigt and the Council of Europe, the EU and the ICIJ to out the Government when it fails in correct governance and in the upholding of the rule of law as promised in 2013.

Some government apologists confuse defending the Government in international fora over manifest cases of corruption, impunity and illegality as patriotism when it is simply an exercise in chauvinism.

8. Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli and MHRA

One cannot miss a mention of praise for MHRA and its president, Tony Zahra, who so capably advised Minister of Tourism Julia Portelli in designing clever anti-COVID protocols and mechanisms, as she so eloquently and cogently explained on the BBC.

The same Minister featured on French TV in connection with the Citizenship by Investment Programme a few months earlier. Also very intelligent and selfless of Tony Zahra to propose that Air Malta should make available free flights for travellers to Malta in order to regenerate tourism.

9. Police

What emerged in public relating to previous Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and his ex-deputy police chief, of Uncle Silvio fame, would be comical, were it not so tragic. As a result of such improprieties, the stature and esteem of the police force had reached a very low ebb in the eyes of the law-abiding citizens of the country.

All may not be lost, however, and other better elements, old and new, may prove to be a face-saver for this law and order force to ensure that it is on the right side of the fence and that there is no impunity for any sacred cow. Long shot, but not all hope is lost as yet. Judgement reserved.

 

Year 2021 is set to be a pivotal year for Malta as our population slowly gets inoculated and hopefully we exit the social and economic upheaval caused by COVID. It is hoped that Malta will be spared grey-listing by Moneyval.

On the political front, we look forward to Malta being a fully functional modern western democracy built on respect for the rule of law and where its public figures, opposition included, will avoid being protagonists for the wrong reason and that next year’s Prize List will be much shorter.

Lovin Malta is open to external contributions that are well written and thought-provoking. If you would like your commentary to be featured as a guest post, please write to [email protected], add Guest Post in the subject line and attach a profile photo for us to use near your byline. Contributions are subject to editing and do not necessarily represent Lovin Malta’s views.

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