Michael Farrugia missed the memo

When someone asks whether you’re going to accept responsibility for something and resign, it isn’t exactly a question.

No, it’s like when your mother shoves an elbow in your ribs and says, “Aren’t you going to thank Aunt Beatrice for the lovely socks?”

They’re saying it because they’re wondering why you’re still around.

Now, I realise allergies to personal responsibility afflict politicians in Malta at near epidemic levels, so I thought it might be helpful to pick apart this rather awkward situation that the former Home Affairs Minister has found himself in.

Accepting a ministerial portfolio doesn’t just mean cashing a paycheque and cutting through traffic in an overpaid motorcycle roar of blue lights.

It also means he or she is responsible for everything that happens in the department. They get some of the credit when things go well, and they accept the blame when things go badly.

Take the traffic police fraud scandal, for example.

When Minister Farrugia says, “It is up to those who were signing and authorising this overtime to shoulder responsibility”, he’s being disingenuous.

First, those who broke the law aren’t going to hang their heads, resign and quietly go home. They’re going to be prosecuted and charged with a range of crimes — and we hope those found guilty will get more than just a suspended sentence.

Second, the supervisors who signed off on all this stuff are responsible for the mess they were administering — but Minister Farrugia was responsible for the supervisors.

Farrugia also said evaluations were performed each year on how overtime funds were being spent, but no one noticed the rampant abuse.

That wasn’t much of an excuse, either.

The fact that no one noticed isn’t an indication Farrugia wasn’t responsible for the abuse that happened in his department. It’s an indication that he wasn’t competent.

These crooked police officers being arrested and investigated by their honest colleagues is not a sign the system is working. The entire scam was only exposed because a whistleblower was disgusted enough to report it.

How many hundreds of people must have known about this and either cashed in or looked the other way as laws were broken by those sworn to enforce the laws?

This is evidence of systemic rot. And it’s not like it was the only scandal under the previous minister’s leadership.

Farrugia was also responsible for the failings of former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar,  namely his bizarre refusal to act on FIAU reports, and his conspicuous avoidance of investigating Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi for money laundering despite having a folder full of evidence.

Farrugia managed to evade responsibility for those derelictions of duty when Joseph Muscat was driven from office in disgrace. But why should anyone expect him to be competent in his new portfolio when this latest shocking failure has finally come to light?

I’m sorry, but I think it’s time for him to go back to the public sector — assuming anyone will hire him with his track record. He can only hope that they don’t check references.

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