The Malta Independent 24 October 2020, Saturday

Update (2) Opposition Leader demands suspension of his driver, learnt of inquiry through 'grapevine'

Monday, 7 December 2015, 15:19 Last update: about 6 years ago

Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil has demanded the suspension of the driver of his official car after a magisterial inquiry was launched following a request made by the Speaker.

In a statement earlier today, Dr Busuttil said he had just been informed that the inquiry was launched after a report compiled by the Speaker on the fuel consumption of the Opposition Leader’s official car.

Dr Busuttil said that whatever the facts, he presented a court application before the inquiring magistrate, informing her that he is at her disposal to help in the investigation.

He said he has also written to the Speaker to request the suspension of the driver involved pending the outcome of the investigation.

The inquiry was launched after a discrepancy was noticed by Parliament's accounts section between the amount of fuel consumed and the recorded mileage.

In a statement issued minutes later, the Nationalist Party said that its leader is leading by example.

Believing in full transparency, the Opposition Leader filed a court application to make himself available for the inquiry.

In contrast, in spite of a number of days passing since the Ombudsman completed a report on parliamentary secretary Ian Borg’s property dealings and sent it to the Commission against Corruption for investigation, the Prime Minister has remained silent, the PN said.

Later in the day, the Labour Party said Dr Busuttil’s driver was appointed as a supposedly trusted person, and as a result, the opposition leader has made a serious error of judgment.

The PL said that only 24 hours after launching a document on good governance and improving standards, it has been established that Dr Busuttil is involved in a case of fraud.

Busuttil says he learnt about magisterial inquiry through the ‘grapevine’

Dr Busuttil said he learnt of the magisterial inquiry which is looking into the fuel costs of the car he is chauffeured in, through the “grapevine”.

Addressing an urgently called news conference this evening, Dr Busuttil said that he would have expected the Speaker of the House, Anglu Farrugia, to have at least informed him about the investigation and not simply have learnt about it through a source. He said he was simply asked some questions by the Clerk of the House two weeks ago but that was it.

He said his driver has strongly denied engaging in any irregularities.

Dr Busuttil said that coincidentally, he got to know about the magisterial inquiry a day after his party presented a set of “good governance” proposals, something no party in the Opposition ever did.

Asked by this newsroom if he was implying that the issue leading to the investigation was some form of vendetta, he reiterated that it is a "coincidence" that he was made aware of the inquiry a day after yesterday’s PN conference aimed at politicians winning back the public’s trust.

He said that he carried out an exercise where he compared the fuel costs of three other cars of the same type and model - an Opel Astra - to the one he is chauffeured in and it resulted that the average fuel consumption was the same as the car he is driven in. He said that it was estimated some 10 litres per 100 kilometres is consumed.

He said that until now he has no idea what irregularities, if any, were being investigated except for the fact that the investigation is tied to fuel consumption.

Dr Busuttil explained that the Opposition leader is allowed some 50 litres a week petrol – which is paid by parliament – but his driver never exceeded 70 euros worth of fuel weekly.

Is this something extraordinary? he asked.

Dr Busuttil vowed that he will now be asking all ministers how much they spend on fuel and will also ask the Speaker how much he spends on travel.

Informed sources told this newsroom that Dr Busuttil's driver does not handle any cash when purchasing fuel and an invoicing system is used.

He said that in the same way he informed the media himself, through a press statement, about the inquiry and also asked the Speaker to suspend his driver pending the results of the inquiry, he had no problem in holding a news conference to answer to any queries put forward by the media.

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