Lawrence Gonzi has been very complacent about corruption. His attitude is that there is no real corruption in Malta and all claims of corruption are politically motivated. At the same time he has often found himself in the absurd position of saying that there is no corruption in Malta and at the same time promising to take measures to intensify the fight against corruption.
He was even more absurd when he announced that to lead this fight he would resurrect the Permanent Commission Against Corruption, giving it the power and tools to investigate any allegations of corruption. For more than 20 years this Commission has been left without any real teeth and resources, with no budget and staff. Since its inception, the Commission has never found anyone guilty of corruption. No wonder that a paper prepared by Luis de Sousa of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies three years ago on ‘Anti-Corruption Agencies: between empowerment and irrelevance’ classifies Malta’s Commission, together with that of Mozambique as very weak, “shallow and unknown to the public at large.”
The prime minister has said he has no regrets about the way the BWSC case developed and he would do all he had done all over again. He defended all those implicated in the BWSC scandal from small fry like Joseph Mizzi, to big fish like Zaren Vassallo, business magnate and Nationalist benefactor whose company has been subcontracted by BWSC to build the controversial power station extension to operate on heavy fuel oil. Gonzi’s government changed the local environmental laws to permit BWSC to bid and win the contract. Gonzi’s government also changed its 2006 policy to abandon heavy fuel oil plants and have new power stations in Malta operate on gas.
Throughout the BWSC saga Gonzi consistently continued to give his backing to Alex Tranter, former chairman of energy corporation Enemalta and employed by Zaren Vassallo whose construction company was awarded a sub contract by BWSC. And he defended David Spiteri Gingell who was on the adjudicating committee that awarded BWSC the contract to build the power station extension, and who a few months later became also a consultant of Vassallo Builders Ltd, Zaren Vassallo’s company.
No wonder that Dr Gonzi has failed to act on the recommendations of the GRECO Evaluation Report of 2005: “…there are no significant restrictions on senior public officials who resign to take up employment in the private sector. It considers that (while this may not have, as yet, posed a problem in Malta) here is a potential risk that a promise of future lucrative employment may be used to influence serving officials, and that former officials may abuse their contracts and inside knowledge of their former work areas, especially in cases where their new employment is closely related to their previous functions.” The report recommends “to introduce clear rules/guidelines for situations where public officials move to the private sector in order to avoid situations of conflict of interest.”
In his eight years as Prime Minister, Gonzi has failed to formulate and implement a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy in the country. He has only himself to blame that since he became Prime Minister many more of our citizens believe that Maltese society is indeed infected by corruption to a greater extent than officially and reluctantly admitted.