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NAO clears Jason Azzopardi of abusing his position to benefit from home ownership scheme

National Audit Office investigation does not find evidence to support claims that former Parliamentary Secretary for Lands Jason Azzopardi abused of his position

Jason Azzopardi

The National Audit Office did not find any evidence to support claims that opposition MP Jason Azzopardi abused of his position to personally benefit from the Home Ownership Scheme when he served as a junior minister responsible for lands.

Anonymous allegations received at the National Audit Office in January 2016 suggested that Azzopardi used his influence to expedite the process for payment by the former Government Property Division (GPD), of land expropriated for the Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) purposes in Santa Lucija.

“The letter also included an allegation that the former Parliamentary Secretary negotiated the purchase of a house, built on a proportion of the acquired land under the conditions of the HOS,” the NAO report tabled in Parliament on Monday said.

The NAO added that although the information provided in relation to specific events was mostly correct, it did not consider the historic, legal and administrative context.

“All of these variables played a critical part in assessing whether the former Parliamentary Secretary had influenced processes related to HOS for his own benefit. To this effect, this Investigation did not reveal evidence to support the claims and implications made,” the NAO said.

Azzopardi’s negotiations to purchase the property came after the former PN administration embarked on a drive to settle outstanding HOS cases in the 2010 Budget.

The investigation also revealed that the processes undertaken by GPD and the Housing Authority to conclude the HOS land acquisition process with respect to the case in question adhered to legal and administrative requirements.

However the NAO said that the absence of a documented policy concerning the prioritisation of settling outstanding dues with respect to expropriated land transgressed on the principle of transparency and deviated from good administrative practices.

“A documented policy reduces the burden of decision-making on public officials as it lessens the possibility of subjective decisions. Moreover, value for money considerations also arise through the prolonging of the land acquisition process since, the longer Government takes to pay owners their dues, the higher the costs incurred by the former due to the financial damages accrued,” it said.

The NAO added that HOS expropriations “were not holistically addressed over time as can be seen by both the various legal and administrative amendments and the limited annual budgetary allocations. Furthermore, the administrative shortcomings also prolonged HOS beneficiaries the opportunity to sign ownership contracts with the Housing Authority.”

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