The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

Auditor General stands by Gaffarena report and its authors in face of Michael Falzon's attacks

Wednesday, 20 July 2016, 18:39 Last update: about 4 years ago

Auditor General Charles Deguara is standing by the National Audit Office's authors of the report on the Old Mint Street-Gaffarena scandal that led to the resignation of former parliamentary secretary for lands Michael Falzon.

Last week Dr Falzon went on the rampage against several NAO employees, accusing them of political bias.  In a letter to Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia, the Auditor General stood by the report and its authors - stressing that impartiality was a sacred principle at the NAO and that employees were bound by a strict code of conduct.  He also dismissed the accusation that other work had been sidelined to make way for the Gaffarena investigation.

The Auditor General also confirmed that one NAO employee who had been singled out by Dr Falzon, Antoine Calleja, had not been involved in the report on the controversial Old Mint Street expropriations.  Dr Falzon had mentioned Calleja after he was seen in a social media post in the company of PN MP Jason Azzopardi at a Liverpool FC match in the UK.

The Auditor General also flatly denied that any member of staff had celebrated the outcome of the report, or any other report for that matter.

The Auditor General also dismissed calls by Dr Falzon to amend the report.  The Auditor General pointed out that the clarifications required of his office had been made in the House Business Committee.

Last Wednesday Dr Falzon launched a broadside against a number of National Audit Office (NAO) employees, who he accused of being political partisan and not fit to even serve in the public service, let alone at the NAO.

Speaking in adjournment time in Parliament, Dr Falzon, who has been stripped of his portfolio and sent to the backbench after a damning NAO report that implicated him in the Old Mint Street (Gaffarena) scandal, he said that the situation was reminiscent of the times of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Dr Falzon repeated accusations to the effect that NAO employee Antoine Calleja had been photographed in the company of Dr Falzon's Nationalist predecessor Jason Azzopardi.  Tabling the photograph in Parliament, Dr Falzon mused that Dr Azzopardi may have been wearing a cap to either protect himself from the sun or to hide himself.

Accusing Mr Calleja of being politically partisan, Dr Falzon asked, "What kind of transparency is this?" Dr Falzon asked, "Are we supposed to trust this person's investigation?" 

Dr Falzon then took aim at two other NAO employees, one who he said was the wife of a Nationalist electoral candidate.  He said that after the NAO had published a critical report on a privatisation project led by Minister Chris Cardona, the pair had said they would crack open a bottle of champagne.

"These people should not even be allowed a position in the civil service, let alone at the National Audit Office," Dr Falzon said.

He also referred to the employment at the NAO of the daughter of the former head of the civil service Godwin Grima, saying that after she had applied for a promotion in the last legislature that she had insisted on having new business cards printed out with her new designation, before she had even been chosen for the post."

Dr Falzon questioned, "Are we supposed to take these individuals seriously?"


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