Everyone’s digging their heels in

Deny, deny, deny. And when the clock runs out on that denial, claim you’ve already paid the price for your ‘mistakes’.

That’s the wool the government’s trying to pull over your eyes as the sweater that Muscat knit unravels.

The National Audit Office investigation into the hospitals’ deal is the latest damning indictment of Labour’s seven year slide into corruption.

The Auditor General came to the same conclusion as The Shift.

The deal this news outlet painstakingly exposed — from its tangled web of offshore shell companies to the export of carbon-copy dodgy deals to Montenegro and Albania — is rotten to the core.

All the usual players are up to their necks in it, too. Disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi. His friends David Galea and Ronald Mizzi, and his personal lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici.

The same people pop up in Mizzi’s ‘sinister’ Electrogas deal, the Montenegro wind farm scandal, and the DB Group’s City Centre project.

Of course, these scams weren’t just the brainchild of the government’s technocrat poster boy. I’ve argued elsewhere that Mizzi was always the natural fall guy for his co-conspirators. The one gullible enough to put his signature on the contracts — and for everyone else to point the finger of blame at.

No, the strings on Mizzi’s marionette were pulled from a higher room in Castille. Rooms occupied by Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat.

But don’t worry, this has all been taken care of — at least, according to the government.

The first statement they made after the NAO report slammed VGH as a deal that shouldn’t have happened was to say, ‘we’ve already shouldered responsibility’ by kicking Mizzi out of the group. Therefore, the problem is solved.

Of course, Mizzi claims he did nothing wrong. No, according to him the entire Cabinet approved the deal. He suggests blaming the Economy Minister and Malta Enterprise instead.

Chris Fearne, who replaced Mizzi as Health Minister, said, “I had nothing to do with negotiations” — though he did describe Steward as the “real deal” when defending its €1 takeover of VGH’s concession.

It wasn’t Muscat’s fault either. He said, “I shouldered responsibility long ago” — for what, we aren’t sure — before adding quickly, “I am not saying that anything wrong was done”.

He thinks he accepted responsibility by ‘resigning’ when he was forced from office in disgrace after the OPM was implicated in the assassination of a journalist. But resigning from a political office does not equal paying for one’s crimes.

Finally, the embattled Adrian Delia, in a desperate bid to distract everyone from the mess he’s made while crashing on the sofa at PN HQ, asked, ‘Who will speak up?’ about this scandal. Unfortunately, no one’s listening to the man whose own MP’s no longer support him.

So Abela’s colleagues want you to regard this entire VGH thing as over and done. Mizzi’s out. Muscat’s sort of gone. Let’s look ahead rather than back.

Sorry, guys. Swapping leaders doesn’t mean you just get to pretend what happened under this government over the past seven years had nothing to do with you.

Which brings us back to the scathing NAO report on the dodgy hospitals’ deal.

It isn’t enough to pull Mizzi out of the driver’s seat so he can’t do any more damage. That’s just Step One in sorting out this mess.

He must also be held accountable for his actions. Tried in a court of law —an impartial court with competent non-partisan judges —  and sent to jail if convicted.

The damage he did must also be repaired. In the case of Vitals, that means cancelling the fraudulent contract Mizzi signed, recovering public funds wherever possible, and reclaiming St. Luke’s, Karen Grech and Gozo General for the Maltese people.

Structures must also be set in place so that such fraud can never be perpetrated again, no matter which Party is in power.

Reports from the NAO need to be acted on rather than just nodded at and shelved.

The Economic Crimes Unit needs to take its teeth out of the glass by the bed where Ian Abdilla was dozing on duty and start biting actual criminals with them — even if those criminals are the politicians who gave him his job.

Procedures for bidding on public contracts must be scrutinised — and changed — to ensure government ministers can’t interfere to benefit friends of friends.

And finally, contracts signed by the government on behalf of the people must be tabled in parliament so all MP’s can examine and debate them. It’s unacceptable that the government can hide agreements they signed in the people’s name behind the excuse of ‘commercial sensitivity’.

Of course, this is just the VGH / Steward two-headed scandal.

The same must be done with the ‘sinister’ Electrogas deal — the corrupt mess Daphne Caruana Galizia was investigating when she was brutally murdered.

The passport peddling scheme should come to a real end, too. The cosmetic changes the government proposed were just that — a fresh coat of paint on the same rotted walls. Adding a so-called residency requirement which was always supposed to be there but was never enforced fools no one.

Prime Minister Abela said he would have “acted differently” if he’d been in charge when the hospital deal was signed.

Well, guess what? Abela can act differently right now by prosecuting the criminals responsible for these deals.

The structure of governance in Malta looks like a hull riddled by shipworms. The whole thing’s taking on water fast, and a storm is brewing on the horizon that’ll push the waves over the waterline.

Repairs are desperately needed to keep this boat afloat. Working with entities like the Venice Commission and Moneyval rather than trying to trick them into granting some sort of inspection certificate would be a good place to start.

These groups are not ‘punishing Malta’. They’re here to help the country.

Of course, accepting their help means giving up the sort of piracy and easy money that’s become synonymous with the EU’s Mediterranean Mafia State.

The rot runs deep, but it won’t require a Heracles to muck out this Augean stable.

It just requires politicians who aren’t on the take and police officers who don’t place Party loyalty above their loyalty to the nation.

                           
                               
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