Brincat asks for a more detailed
investigation into VOM
Labour MP and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Technology
Leo Brincat has asked the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), chaired by
Labour deputy leader Charles Mangion, to investigate the operations
of the Voice of the Mediterranean, headed, until its closure on 31 December,
by Richard Muscat.
Brincat asked Mangion to ask for an investigation by the National Audit
Office. Brincat said the investigation carried out by foreign ministry
officials into Muscats management of the now defunct radio station
was not competent to carry it out, and said that the persons investigating
had every interest to kill the investigation as they were responsible
for all entities falling under the ministry for foreign affairs.
Brincat made several serious allegations about Muscats management
and is expecting a full investigation.
The Malta Financial and Business Times asked Muscat to comment about
the allegations and Muscat said: "My comment is that I continue
to refute the unfounded allegations, insinuations aimed at throwing
mud at me to smear my reputation.
"Such nasty tactics are negative characteristics that make politics
a dirty activity. I maintain that I always did my best to perform the
duties assigned to me wherever I worked, inspired by principles of fairness
and honesty, I repeat, always in my 32 years of political career, and
also now at VOM; I suffered to hold on to these principles when they
were challenged by wrongdoers, in the past as well as now at VOM. I
continue to wonder why I am being made a scapegoat in this unfortunate
VOM story whilst the facts show that I have nothing to do with the reasons
for the closure of the station."
Brincat asked the PAC to investigate among other things why the contract
for the running of the VOM website was cancelled and whether other companies
were contacted before Cyberspace was engaged. Cyberspaces work
cost VOM Lm3,000 monthly and Muscats son was an employee and spend
much time at VOM.
Muscat defended himself: "I cannot comment on the contract with
Multi-Media as I came in the radio on July 2000. I feel I have made
the best decision in contracting Cyberspace in the circumstances.
"The terms were wide raging, the price was really reasonable, and
the results were enthusiastically great even beyond our calculations.
"The Cyberspace contract was more than half way through when it
was terminated. The idea was working well because by the end of the
contract, VOM would have had trained our personnel to take over in a
smooth transition. The VOM employee was being trained by Cyberspace
as part of the contract."
The website updated by Cyberspace was replete with mistakes and people
in the industry have commented that the fee for such a website should
have been much lower.
The PAC was asked to investigate why, when the VOM was in financial
difficulties, it decided to enhance its IT services. Muscats replied:
"The financial difficulties due to the Libyan side's accruing arrears
was present since 1992. The difference lies in the fact that before
I came in the station, the radio was kept lagging behind in the use
of technology when all Malta was keeping the pace with progress in this
field, whilst my arrival was marked by the right time to make a general
overhaul which was in dire need. The plan for some of the changes were
already in store before I was appointed. In the meantime the Libyan
side were happy with the changes; in fact they changed into digital
also in their other operations."
Muscats decision on the VOMs new premises was also taken
to task by Brincat who asked for the criteria that led to the choice
of site. Muscat told The Malta Financial and Business Times: "There
is proof that the process of identifying and eventually deciding on
the new premises was a clean and transparent exercise all through. It
was conducted by VOM and MEPA with the final approval of the Finance
Brincat brought to the PACs attention that there was no evidence
of quotations received for goods and services commissioned by Muscat.
In the report prepared by the ministry of finance it was concluded that
while Muscat could stated that "it would have been better if Muscat
had asked for quotations for each service and product that was bought,
but he was not bound by the regulations of the Civil Service."
Muscats reaction was: "I can assure your readers
that quotations were reasonably taken in several instances before the
purchase was effected. The occasions when this procedure was not taken
were mainly when some of the identified equipment was ordered from abroad
or when there were evidently no better offers.
"The pressure of time was enormous. This is not an excuse, but
VOM is an entity that is not obliged to keep strictly to the procedures
in practice at the civil service. Running a competitive radio station
is creative, dynamic and needs doing to deliver. The decisions, backed
by the management of VOM, were taken with the best of intentions all
Brincat also questioned the employment of Muscats son as a summer
worker with VOM and Muscats reaction was: "This insinuation
shows again the low level of the political motivation behind it."