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Corruption: A Maltese Case Study

The problem with many localized corruption cases is that those suspected of such corruption are rarely properly investigated, prosecuted and punished.
Views: 991 Created 10/23/2010

Corruption is a word quite common in our vocabulary. Corruption leads to a situation in which the corrupt individual or individuals ultimately gain in an unfair manner at the expense of other individuals and society in general.  For some, the word corruption is synonymous with organisations such as the Italian, American, Russian and Chinese Mafias. While it is true that in these groups corrupt practices form an integral part of their modus operandi, the corruption this case study will discuss can be termed localized corruption. Localized corruption rarely makes the national news and on very rare occasions ever gets picked up by the international press even though it exists and costs society considerably.

Movies tend to make it very simple for the audience to understand who the corrupt person is as well as the people involved in the act of deceit; the so called chain of corruption. In the end the good will win and justice will be done. With localized corruption, only a small percentage of the total acts of corruption ever get discovered and far less get successfully prosecuted or resolved. 

In localized corruption cases, the culprit(s) will call upon one or more of the following actions in order to arrive at their ultimate goal:

  1. Special treatment that results in the corrupt individuals being treated considerably more favourably than others.
  2. Insider information that allows the corrupt individuals to have access to information not available to others.
  3. Ability to influence the outcome of events such that these favour them.
  4. Short circuit the system so that procedures applicable to normal people are not enforced / applied.

Sometimes it may be necessary for the corrupt persons to seek the help of third parties in order to arrive at their ultimate goal. Third parties may be inclined to accommodate the corrupt people because of friendship, against payment, without realising what the corrupt person’s intentions are, or because these people are careless. While the first three are self-explaining, an example of the last would be that of a superior signing documents without property reading them or by not password protecting his computer (thereby allowing the villain to enter illegal instructions).

When others discover the act of corruption, they are at a disadvantage. Normally the victims will realise what is happening after the act has been completed. Armed with very little information they have no idea where to start. The first step would be for the victims to send off emails and letters to get a better understanding on what and how things happened. As soon as the criminals figure out what is ensuing, they, together with those who have helped them, will do their best to:

  1. Prevent questions from being answered. Tactics used are to direct those asking questions to other entities that are not involved and which do not have anything to do with the case as well as to quote laws and regulations which prohibit information seekers from seeking public and unclassified documents.
  2. Not reply to questions.
  3. Adjust, alter or destroy any evidence that ties them to the action. It is quite common that files relating to a case of corruption go missing or are incomplete.

In many localized corruption cases those investigating these cases do so at their own expense, time and resources. Others are disadvantaged by a lack of education that makes it impossible for them to deal the bureaucracy built up by those who have an interest to prevent the truth from being known.

The Malta Case Study

Malta is a country in Europe.  Attard is a posh, high class town right in the middle of this country. A family have an area of land situated about 150m (500 feet) from the presidential palace. The value of this land would be enormous if it could be developed. Imagine how much land with building permits would cost if it were just 500 feet from the White House in the USA, Buckingham palace in London or any official presidential residence anywhere in the world.

The son of this family, Norbert, is employed by the Maltese Department of Works. This department made a formal request that the Department of Lands requisition part of the land owned by the family. In Malta, only the Department of Lands is vested with the authority to requisition land or release it and therefore all other government entities must forward requests to it. In 1992, the Maltese Government requisitioned part of the land owned by the family.

Subsequently roads where laid out and approved. Even though, in the 1990s, the culture of preserving the countries’ heritage was gaining momentum, the family applied for and obtained building permits, just 10 feet (3m) away from one of the town’s most visible example of 19th century British engineering constructions. The family, building permits in hand and with road as well as building contributions paid up sold all of the villa plots to third parties. The beautiful roads and area commanded a hefty price.

In 2005, the Maltese Department of Works (the department that employs the son of the family) made a formal request to the Department of Lands to release the chunk of land it had originally requisitioned. Even though families were now living adjacent to the requisitioned area, no one was consulted.

Once the government had released the land, the family attempted to apply for a permit so that a considerable part of the area originally earmarked as a road be built up. The family failed to realise that since road contributions had been paid, those having property on the land had to be informed. The cat was out of the bag.

All attempts to gain access to the file have proved futile. Mr Ray Farrugia, Director General of the Project Design and Implementation Department at the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs never granted access to the file. Once this file is made public, interested parties can learn the hows and whys behind the original application and, subsequently, the instruction to release the land. One could, with the complete and unaltered file, decipher why no one was consulted when the decision to release the land was taken and the rate at which events to process applications took place compared to other similar applications.

The problem with many localized corruption cases is that those suspected of such corruption are rarely properly investigated, prosecuted and punished. With such a non-existent deterrent there is very little incentive to stop this type of corruption from taking place.

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