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Opinion | Wednesday, 10 March 2010 Issue. 154

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You’ve got to be joking, Mr Fenech

Saturday evening, and a spokesman for Tonio Fenech tells Illum editor Julia Farrugia that a set of answers is being finalised to a set of questions about prepayments on the EneMalta Delimara extension.
However, there is a ‘but’. A tiny, weenie condition: “We will send them only if they are published in their entirety.”
What arrogance!
Julia Farrugia answers, and rightly so, that it is not in the character of MediaToday publications to censor. But the idea that Ministers of State determine how the media act and deliver is perhaps rather telling.
Anyhow, Julia gives the green light and the answers that follow prove that the government have prepaid the Danish company €39 million upfront, and that the contract stipulates that if the whole deal is stopped there is a fine of €300 million.
Well, Julia is obviously flabbergasted. Who wouldn’t be?
The truth is that the Auditor General is investigating allegations of misconduct in the issuing of a tender worth millions, and yet Fenech sees no problem going ahead with plans.
And he goes ahead. In other words, does not give a flying toss what the auditor will say or not say. He does not give a hoot whether there is, shall we say, some concern about the whole Delimara saga.
What is far worse is that the auditor may in fact find something inappropriate – and if that is the case, what happens then? Well, Mr Fenech has declared in no uncertain terms that the contract has a penalty clause... giving the impression that nothing can be changed now.
And what happens, if during the works on the Delimara power station, the Danish company fails to deliver?
Have we entrusted our government to enter into agreements which clearly favour private contractors, but not the taxpayer?
The government reminds me of those Maltese lawyers who are entrusted to administer the inherited estates of some poor soul, and one fine day decide to indulge in some extravagant fraudulent squandering.
I have some stories to recount here – including one involving a Labour candidate and another involving a very pompous Nationalist candidate.
Yes, I am afraid we have a government which enters into agreements that favour only the dubious winners of public funded projects.
Tonio Fenech is economical with the truth, but more – much more – he thinks that everyone is basically stupid.
Is it not bad enough that we experienced the workings of a Minister (Austin Gatt) who appointed a Chairman (Alex Tranter) who captained Enemalta at a time when fuel was hedged at the wrong price? Well, now we have a Minister who thinks that it is perfectly acceptable to have a penalty clause applicable only to government, and that sounds to me like a case of take it or leave it.
Not only do we have the choice of the winner to a tender to worry about; now we have to concern ourselves with the wording of the contractual agreement. This continues to fortify my perception that this country is truly run by Boy Scouts.
In another country, the press would be up in arms. Here, it is obvious that none of the influential media will even dare raise an eyebrow in question of the logic behind accepting such a contract.
It is more than obvious that the Maltese public is completely resigned to being led by incompetent and irresponsible souls.
On the other hand, the Opposition attempts to raise questions about the issue. In particular, this: why did the PM avoid a debate in parliament on the premise that the auditor was investigating the project... and then allow for such a contract to be concluded, and an upfront payment handed over, for the same project?
It so happens that sometimes the Opposition does have valid questions to ask, even though it has become the national pastime to demonise Labour and to associate morons with Labour.
So when Minister Tonio Fenech told Illum that the auditor general had not stated that the works on the Delimara power extension should stop pending the conclusion of his investigation, he was really and truly playing with words.
Mr Fenech knows that the auditor said zilch. But neither did the auditor suggest that the project should go ahead. Auditors point out deficiencies, but will never tell you what to do. Fenech knows this, but he takes us all for simpletons.
Tonio Fenech is a glorified accountant but by the looks of it his real vocation is to serve as the senior ventriloquist for his master at Castille.
Here we have a man who tried to give the impression that he did not see a conflict of interest when flying on a private jet with businessmen involved in the same sector his government was regulating at the time. Then he goes on to declare that delays in the Delimara power station extension could lead to EU fines, because the Marsa power station would not be phased out in time.
Since when has Fenech started to have a bleeding heart about environmental issues, or fines from the EU?
Did the irresponsible decision to open the spring hunting – which may also lead EU fines, more so after such a decision by the European Court of Justice – not concern him also?
The answer to that is NO.
Tonio Fenech belongs to this new breed of political leaders: self-righteous and bigoted, they believe they can get away with about everything.
We should not be too surprised, especially from a person who continues to stand upright even though he was fundamentally in breach of so many ethical principles with his freebie saga and ‘works in progress’ at home.
But principles – as we were informed so kindly of by the effective PBS editorial board chairman Joe Pirotta, a person with a particular interest in the Delimara power extension saga – need not be balanced when the subject is debated on State TV.

Back to Tonio Fenech, who has meanwhile yet again tried to portray the fiscal tragedy in Greece as work of the present Socialist government.
A comment which of course was left unchecked by the most notoriously fair and competent presenter on State TV: the one and only Mr Bondi, the government’s gatekeeper. Needless to say nothing was said that the new Socialist party in Greece is acting as it should but only after a major economic policy of the Conservatives – allied of course with Mr Fenech is political ilk.
Needless to add, Tonio Fenech will not explain that the Greek economy had been grounded by the previous Conservative government, and that the incoming Socialist government has taken the tough decisions needed to address the situation.
But beyond Fenech’s attempt to reword history, it has to be said that the EU allowed Greece to get away with murder by stalling reform, and this continues to sow mistrust in an institution which has become more distant from its citizens.
Tonio Fenech believes, like many other politicians have believed before him, that the people will remain gullible and digest everything presented to them.
He tends to forget that politicians have an expiry date and that the truth somehow always prevails.
I could be convinced that with State TV controlled by the administration, and most of the media unwilling to question the actions of the government, the process of change will take an inordinately long time.
But nothing lasts forever... even though some people evidently consider themselves to be immortal.



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