The government-appointed board investigating the widely reported disability benefits racket revealed last year will ask for an extension to its five-month term.
In response to a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Albert Buttigieg, Social Services Minister Michael Falzon said the board, meant to deliver its findings on 11 February, “would be asking for an extension of a few weeks to conclude its report.”
Falzon pledged the report’s findings would be made public.
While the government board, appointed some five months ago, buys more time for their administrative investigations, no charges have been issued by the police against any of those enabling the racket, including former MP Silvio Grixti, alleged to be at the racket’s centre.
Last September, the Times of Malta reported how Grixti, who resigned abruptly from parliament in 2021, allegedly provided forged medical documents to patients for them to fraudulently benefit from monthly government handouts for disabilities they did not have.
The prospective beneficiary would then present the documents to a medical panel at the Department of Social Security, who would approve the benefits after interviews, reportedly only lasting a few minutes.
The Shift reported how those on the medical panel were kept on it for years despite the racket being common knowledge.
In response to public uproar and an attempt to downplay the implications, Falzon appointed an ‘independent’ investigative board.
Grixti resigned from his role as Labour MP in December 2021 in the wake of a police investigation related to the alleged racket.
The former MP was questioned again by police in the weeks following the revelations of the scandal.
The alleged racket reportedly ballooned to include fraudulent claimants with forged documents from sources other than Grixti.
It is claimed that ‘clients’ were sent to Grixti and onto the medical board by the customer care section at the Office of the Prime Minister and other ministries.
The terms of reference for the independent board appointed by Falzon state that it should investigate how the fraudulent applications were accepted and whether there were administrative shortcomings or irregularities in the verification process, including the medical evaluation.
Former Judge Antonio Mizzi, the husband of former Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, chairs the board. Mizzi is aided by members Anthony Scicluna and Raymond Muscat.
The separate police investigation, now more than two years old, has not resulted in any arrests or charges.