The Malta Independent 20 October 2016, Thursday

Watch: Falzon resigns, Deborah Schembri to replace him, Gaffarena deal to be reversed

Wednesday, 20 January 2016, 18:41 Last update: about 10 months ago

Michael Falzon resigned his post as Parliamentary Secretary for Planning following the publication of a damning NAO report into the Gaffarena expropriation deal. The report found that Dr Falzon and other government officials failed to safeguard the government's interest in the controversial deal. 

In a press conference at Castille right after the report was tabled in Parliament, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that he had accepted Michael Falzon's resignation. Government MP Deborah Schembri will succeed him as Parliamentary Secretary for Planning.

The Prime Minister said he had given instructions to suspend the transfer of government-owned land by sale or rent.

Dr Muscat Muscat also announced a reform of the Government Property Division (Lands Department), which will now become an authority. He said that a public consultation process will be held to address the issue.

Asked by The Malta Independent why he had waited until the publication of the report to take action, Dr Muscat said he acted once the report had been concluded. He insisted that the Government could not take disciplinary action based on media speculation.

Meanwhile, Dr Falzon insisted that he had not interfered in the negotiations. He claimed that he found the report somewhat ‘confusing’. “There were parts in which the report said I should have interfered and other parts where it states I should have kept my distance”, Falzon said. Despite the findings of the NAO report, Michael Falzon still insisted he never interfered in the Gaffarena land negotiations.

Dr Muscat said that Dr Lawrence Quintano will head a supervisory board to monitor the property division.He described the NAO report as condemnation of the lands department.

Dr Muscat did not hold back from criticizing the Nationalist Party, saying that people did not expect anything from the Opposition because they had simply given up.

“We all make mistakes, it is how one reacts to them that make the difference,” he added.

“Similar cases did happen in the past,” the Prime said, “an allegation has to be investigated and all the necessary must be taken.”

Muscat said that Michael Falzon has his reservations about the report, but he understands that he must shoulder political responsibility.

The Prime Minister remarked that what is being said about Falzon has some contradictions. While thanking him for his service, the Prime Minister described Michael Falzon as a person of integrity.

Muscat said he will be forwarding the NAO report conclusions to the Attorney General to see if any further action is required. 

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