Malta passes Moneyval Test- Malta News Briefing – Thursday 29 April 2021

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Latest Update- News Portal Briefing

Times of Malta reports that Malta’s anti-money laundering regime has formally passed a review by Moneyval. 

MaltaToday reports that Opposition Leader Bernard Grech has called out Prime Minister Robert Abela and his office for leaking George Hyzler’s name as a possible candidate for the Ombudsman role. 

Newsbook reports that Allied Group CEO Michel Rizzo and former financial controller Claude Licari were today charged with fraud and money laundering.

TVM reports that WasteServ employees were exposed to serious danger after a person threw away three gas canisters with recyclable waste.

Updated 1500 – Allied CEO arraigned for fraud and money laundering

The CEO of Allied Group Michel Rizzo and former financial controller Claude Licari have been arraigned to face charges of fraud and money laundering. The two have been charged in Court this afternoon.

Updated 1300

Covid-19 Update
Covid-19 cases reached 27 today, with 31 new recoveries
The number of active cases has gone down to 370. A total of 2,040 swab tests were taken yesterday. No new deaths were registered for the fourth consecutive day.

Government to ‘take necessary steps’ on damning NAO report
The government will take any necessary steps on a National Audit Office report that found that a €247 million contract for the St Vincent de Paul home broke the law, Social Solidarity Minister Michael Farrugia. Farrugia said that he was “absolutely convinced” internal scrutiny will take place following the report.

The report found that procurement regulations had been breached. Massive shortcomings were found in the contract to build and operate residential blocks and a kitchen.

Newspaper Review

The Independent speaks to Chamber of SMEs CEO Abigail Mamo who said that the pace of vaccination and the reopening of non-essential shops promise a ‘positive’ summer for business. She warned, however, about the unpredictability of the pandemic.

Business Today leads with a General Auditor probe into St Vincent de Paul which found that a multi-million contract awarded to a consortium between James Caterers and Debono Group was not sanctioned by the responsible parliamentary secretary or Cabinet.

The Times quotes a report by the National Audit Office highlighting a series of shortcomings in the €274 million contract for upgrades at St Vincent de Paul Residence. The NAO says that the government agreement with the consortium could be deemed invalid.

In-Nazzjon says that the National Audit Office could not establish a basis for the legal procedure used by St Vincent de Paul Residence to introduce ‘additional investment’ on a contract awarded to Maltese consortium.

L-Orizzont reveals that the government and the General Workers Union have reached an understanding on a new collective agreement for workers at the Corradino Corrective Facility.

The Malta Business Weekly speaks with the president of the Entertainment Industry and Arts Association, Howard Keith Debono, who reported rising levels of stress and anxiety among members because of the pandemic.

The Independent speaks to Chamber of SMEs CEO Abigail Mamo who said that the pace of vaccination and the reopening of non-essential shops promise a ‘positive’ summer for business. She warned, however, about the unpredictability of the pandemic.

Business Today reports on the annual report of the Malta Development Bank, tabled in parliament on Wednesday. Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said the bank proved to be ‘a key channel’ for support to businesses during the pandemic.

The Malta Business Weekly says that the government has extended support for rent and electricity bills for companies in the latest assistance package. Businesses that will remain closed from May 10 will receive a further €1,000 handout.

In-Nazzjon follows PN Leader Bernard Grech on a visit to Lufthansa Technik on Wednesday. He said the party is building a strategy for new economic sectors that create stable jobs and respect the environment.

L-Orizzont carries an interview with the Operations Manager at Aġenzija Tama, Shirley Mifsud, who said that the pandemic has made it more difficult for families to adopt but requests were still strong.

The Independent follows the appearance of Brian Tonna before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee who said that the government has actively avoided engaging his company Nexia BT in the past couple of years.

The Times reports that UK authorities have requested further documentation to justify the extradition of Adrian Hillman to Malta. The former Allied Group managing director is facing charges of corruption and money laundering.

In-Nazzjon says that Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that he disagrees with the government’s plan to procure energy from Electrogas for 18 years.

L-Orizzont reports on a commemoration held by the General Workers Union on Wednesday to mark the 63rd anniversary of the 1958 national strike. Union secretary general Josef Bugeja paid tribute to the 100 people that were arrested by the colonial government.

Morning Briefing

NAO finds major shortcomings in SVPR contract

The NAO found that a contract at SVPR, awarded to build and operated residential blocks and a kitchento James Caterers and a subsidiary of the DB group was in breach of legislative provisions. The contract process, totalling €274 million, featured a series of serious shortcomings, missing documentation and oversight failures.

In a statement, the NAO said that “it was as unable to determine how the additional investment component originated, notwithstanding that this was an innovative requirement of the call for tenders for comprehensive services. This Office has reservations as to why no parameters that were to guide potential tenderers formulate the additional investment were set. This concern assumes greater relevance given the disproportionate weighting that this was assigned in the evaluation criteria.”

The NAO also said it was “incredulous” at the role played by parliamentary secretaries
politically responsible for the project. “Their failure to enquire as to the regularity of this procurement is in clear breach
of their duties”, it said.

Speaker abstains from Abela vote

Speaker Anglu Farrugia abstained from casting a deciding vote during a parliamentary committee meeting, effectivelly stalling the adoption of a report which found minister Carmelo Abela in breach of ethical standards. The report, by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler, looked into Abela’s use of public funds to run a series of advertisements in local print media, costing €7,012.98.

The Standards Commissioner had found that OPM minister Carmelo Abela breached ethics with the publication of a newspaper advert that was intended to boost his image, rather than provide information of value to the public.
“That promotion was self-promotion; that’s my subjective opinion from what I studied. It put no light on the ministry, expect for the few slogans,” Hyzler explained during last week’s sitting.

Covid-19 Update
Active coronavirus cases have declined to 374, the lowest for a number of months, after 15 cases were reported on Wednesday afternoon. 41 persons recovered during the same timeframe. A total of 1,690 swab tests were taken yesterday.
Till Tuesday, 323,024 doses of the anti-Covid vaccine were given, 103,882 of which were second doses.
No deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours.