Scandals are forever

Source: Marilyn Mifsud¸ PKF Malta

As published on MaltaToday¸ Wednesday 27th November 2013

Back in 2003¸ the European Parliament initiated an investigation on financial irregularities that were alleged to be taking place at the European Commission Statistics department Eurostat. The main facts here concerned large amounts of money being moved into a secret bank account¸ to the benefit of the culprits. From the investigation emanated fictitious and fabricated contracts¸ whose value had been similarly fabricated. For added emphasis this scandal concerned the official bureau of statistics of the European Union in view of between four and five million Euro that had gone missing. Back in 2003¸ it was reported that when these concerns first arose¸ OLAF¸ the European anti-fraud office¸ did not react. Elements that were involved also included reported omission – to act on information had by the Commission with regard to these illicit acts.

As people started to come forward post scandal¸ it was leaked that Eurostat’s staff reporting system (CDR) acted to facilitate the termination of careers without risk to the directors or director generals who ordered such termination. This invariably led to the edifice being run as a terrorising one¸ whose employees lived in fear of losing their jobs¸ throwing any form of potential whistle-blowing squarely out the window. One report¸ authored by an ex Eurostat employee¸ went as far as describing the entity as a political powerhouse where ‘only the weak get cut’. Despite all of this¸ in May 2004 MEPs voted in absolute majority against the motion to censure the Commission over its failure to take political responsibility for the Eurostat affair.

One may be questioning how all of the above is relevant. This is so namely by setting the stage for a local scenario¸ entirely different but similarly concerning suspicions raised as to the application of the rule of the law in view of a national bulwark institution. This will be examined while bearing in mind that scandals are forever and moreover that they are more often than not found right at the top. It is indeed a small world¸ but Malta is truly even smaller. In the light of recent goings on one cannot help but wonder whether our miniscule island size has contributed to brewing an ever more tightly knit incidence of nepotism that on some occasions appears to have hardened beyond infiltration.

We invite readers to follow us on the upcoming delineation. The case involves procurement and more accurately Tender No 4/2013: Survey on Household Finance and Consumption in Malta¸ issued by the Central Bank of Malta in June 2013. Being questioned – the tender award to a bidder at three times the cheapest bid (€93¸263) without justified reasons for refusal to the cheapest bidder (€37¸000).

The reliability of the Central Bank procurement structure began to be questioned by little things at first¸ which escalated as time went by. At first almost unimportant things struck a chord like the absence of any fee for lodging an appeal form a decision of the Central Bank (unlike all public procurement appeals which have a clearly defined payment process).

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