I believe Philip Rizzo. Evarist Bartolo has always been a snake in the grass.

Published: December 3, 2016 at 10:40am

The Education Minister, Evarist Bartolo, has reacted most inappropriately to the resignation letter written by Philip Rizzo and published by the Education Ministry last night.
Rizzo is “lying”, the Minister has said. “I have been betrayed.”

He has been betrayed? The public have been betrayed, by a government minister who poses about town as holier than though, strict and correct, gaining access to legions of ‘Sliema types’ by virtue of his wife of the last four decades, convincing them that he is ‘different’ and ‘understands the issues which concern us’ (of course he does, as a way of destroying and undermining a category of people he not-so-secretly despises), and all along he was just another shady operator heavily into patronage and cronyism, like the rest of the crooks he sits with.

You know, I’ve reached the stage where I literally cannot stomach people’s total lack of basic common sense. No wonder so many people in Malta give their money to individuals who run off with it, or put their funds into suspect ‘investments’ just because they’ve been offered a high return or coupon rate.

If Bartolo were decent and honest, would he have stuck with the Labour Party since the 1970s? Of course not. Decent and honest people left in droves when they saw what was going on.

And if he were decent, would he have allowed himself to be made part of Muscat’s power-hungry bandwagon, addressing press conferences about Tonio Fenech’s stupid clock and the rest of it, when all along he must have known – because if I and others worked it out from the outside, he had to have known it from the inside; he’s not stupid – that they were planning corrupt deals with, among other, the power station brokers?

Philip Rizzo was, until yesterday, CEO of the government organisation which handles a budget of many millions to build and refurbish schools. This government has not built a single new school to replace an old one, in the last almost four years, and has no plans to do so. Instead, the funds – as Philip Rizzo has revealed to the police – have been going on corrupt deals with money allegedly kicked back to Evarist Bartolo’s electoral vote-canvasser, Edward Caruana,a man Bartolo himself appointed heaf of procurement at that organisation when Labour came to power in 2013, as ‘a person of trust’..

Would a decent and honest man have put his canvasser in a position, as a personal reward, where he could handle direct orders on a budget of millions for Malta’s state schools?

Evarist Bartolo is fortunate that Rizzo has not suspected him of being a party to this graft, because in his position, it would have been one of the first things I would have considered. Why place your personal vote-canvasser in that of all positions? Occam’s Razor screams out that it’s because you want a cut too, and at this stage it’s a legitimate suspicion.

While Bartolo acts the role of the horrified nun, let’s bear in mind that his political canvasser shouldn’t have been in that job – which should be for a serious person with a properly qualified background, or an experienced civil servant – in the first place. He was there, able to ask for graft and kickbacks and fiddle around with tenders, direct orders and contracts, only because Bartolo put him there as a personal favour as his ‘person of trust’.

And to make matters even worse, the permanent secretary at the Education Ministry was got rid of along with all the other permanent secretaries at different ministries, bar one, and Bartolo replaced him with a certain Joseph Caruana, his canvasser’s brother.

Is that kind of cronyism a recipe for corruption or what? It’s corrupt in itself.

I’ve criticised Philip Rizzo for his damned stupid rooting for Joseph Muscat and the Labour Party in the 2013 general election campaign. (What a total idiot you were, Philip, honestly, to be taken in by a bunch of crooks at your age, and worse, to stick your neck out for them, to set fire to your good name so that they could create a good name of their own off your ruination.)

I mocked him mercilessly on the matter of his pathetic “3Bs boobs” remark on public Facebook to a member of his staff at the Employment & Training Corporation, when he was in charge there. But I’m with him on this one.

His resignation letter has the strong ring of moral outrage about it, which might be rich coming from him, but people who make questionable decisions in their lives are often the first to be aghast at brazen theft and to suffer a crisis of conscience. I’ve noticed that.

Rizzo’s political judgement and ability to assess characters and motives has turned out to be total rubbish, but the fact remains that he is a trained auditor and Bartolo is going to find it difficult to cast doubt on his assessment of the missing money and the corrupt transactions that he has identified, and which he taken to the police and to the Permanent Commission Against Corruption.

Well done, Philip, for taking a stand against these crooks. And now I can see, in retrospect, that in a perverse way it’s a good thing that you joined their bandwagon and went to work for them. Because you did that, they concluded, as well they might, that you are a mercenary opportunist who belongs with them, and that you would cover up for them and perhaps even be a party to the graft, as others are.

But instead you were horrified, put a rocket under them, went to the police, and that is exactly why Evarist Bartolo’s unconsidered instant reaction is that he feels betrayed: because the person he thought was just another sordid tal-pepe opportunist out for money, power and graft turned out to have the conscience that he does not.