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‘Pullicino should resign over Wasteserv’

Labour yesterday called on Resources Minister George Pullicino to step down following the “shocking” Wasteserv practices exposed by the Auditor General.

The Labour Party’s environment spokesman Leo Brincat said the directors of the government-owned waste management agency should also resign.

“People are crying out for good governance,” Mr Brincat said, before giving a brief summary of the 13 pages of “shameful” shortcomings listed in the National Audit Office’s annual report about 2011.

The report found a lack of transparency and noncompliance with procurement regulations as well as long delays and cost variations on capital projects.

In one case, a six-month contract with a private company worth €1 million was turned into a four-year contract worth €29 million, without the Finance Ministry’s approval being sought.

The NAO said it could not ensure the validity and correctness of payments for the hire of a stand-by generator because there was no contract. Meanwhile, due to “insufficient details on the invoices”, it was also impossible to tally the rates charged with the quoted prices.

Mr Brincat said the auditor’s findings had confirmed the countless reports he received since 2008 about the “scandalous” state of affairs within Wasteserv and other aspects of Mr Pullicino’s ministry.

“The auditor was so preoccupied with these findings he decided to widen his investigation,” said Mr Brincat, adding that he was called in to give information just a few weeks ago. Asked if he suspected corruption, Mr Brincat said he was prepared to go so far as to say there was a “whiff of corruption” but the auditor would have to provide the evidence.

“These shortcomings are widespread right across the board... The fish rots from the head down,” he added. He said a Labour government would carry out an independent audit of Wasteserv’s financial and technical aspects.

Meanwhile, Wasteserv said it cooperated fully with the auditing exercise and explained to NAO officials what measures were taken to strengthen internal controls.

It also pointed out that EU-funded projects were scrutinised by the EU before being approved and after the funds were granted. The Resources Ministry accused Mr Brincat of drawing unfounded conclusions and seeking sensationalism. It said the €29 million contract included the wages of workers not included in the original contract.

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