In the process, I’ve lost count of the times a PN stalwart or a person with a clear PN bias or even a PN candidate has accused me of ‘navel gazing’ or of not looking at the bigger picture, when I try to show the parallels between the institutional crisis that is the hot topic of the day, with my discovery, years ago, of the institutional crises that face the little people, contending with the impact of Maltese catastrophic administrative policy, on a daily basis.
“Eeee, mur ara – you’re going to equate the issue of your electricity bill with what’s going on?”
This, even when I explain the long-winded, ongoing saga and the tortuous, convoluted pathways I have taken to make sure that our institutions do what they say they do on the tin.
These people have a clear PN bias, no matter their protestations of being neutral. They are so blinkered, and black and white that they don’t see that the same institutions that have so dramatically let us down recently, are behaving identically to those that have let us down since forever.
What’s worse, they belittle me and refuse to see that I am, and have been, fighting the same battle against these useless institutions that they say they are intent on fighting now. Some adopt a tone of resigned acceptance that nothing will ever change because this is how things have been and how they will always be done.
They make out that I am only fighting this battle to get my €3 500 back.
Talk about red rags and bulls. Of course I’m fighting to get our stolen money back. From the state, if you will. But to actually imply that I have gone to the lengths I have gone, the energy, time, health I’ve expended... just to get our money back... Well, just imagine some obscene expletive and then multiply it by 1 000.
Come on – how much more easily could I have found a way to replace this stolen money?
Instead I chose, on POINT OF PRINCIPLE, to not allow the state to get away with this outrageous state theft. I chose, day in day out, to fight this on as many different levels as I could. I founded a tenant support group, currently 1 900 members strong – many of whom are in the same situation we found ourselves in, in 2013. I wrote to Arms CEOs, the PM, the Minister for Energy, the Minister for Justice, the Inland Revenue, the NAO, the Office of the Ombudsman, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and probably many more that I have now forgotten. (I should collate all my correspondence in a file – it will make fascinating reading one day.)
Why don’t these people see that electing PN will change NOTHING where this kind of state behaviour is concerned? The current Arms billing system was introduced in 2008. Shambolic, discriminatory, unconstitutional – just like ALL administrative policy in ALL aspects of Maltese everyday life.
This is what it says on the tin of the NAO: “To help promote accountability, propriety and best practices in government operations.”
And yet, the NAO came up with bogus reason after bogus reason as to why it could not do anything about the fleecing of the tenant living in Malta by the sole, state owned utility billing company, Arms.
First I was told that nothing could be done because I was in sub judice. When this is a clear nonsense because my ex landlord’s legal action against me had absolutely nothing to do with the general incorrect implementation of the Arms billing system where tenants are concerned. For goodness’ sake, Arms wasn’t even a plaintiff or a defendant in the case!
Next they tell me that there is a Constitutional court case which is sub judice. But I know that this court case also has nothing to do with the incorrect implementation of the Arms billing system where tenants are concerned. Instead it is to decide whether having two residential tariffs is actually in breach of the Maltese Constitution. Like you need a bloomin' constitutional court case to tell you that, of course, this is unconstitutional. What a waste of time and money.
My issue with the Arms billing system is that it is not implemented correctly, where tenants are concerned. Tenants, like their multiple property owning landlords, live in their primary residence. As such they should be on the residential tariff. Instead thousands of euros are stolen in overcharges from most tenants because they are on the misleadingly named domestic tariff, designed for empty second homes or summer residences.
There is NO court case in sub judice that relates to this issue. AT ALL.
For the NAO to do nothing in the face of this obscene malpractice by a state owned entity is disgraceful. To me it shows a fear of taking action against ‘government operations’, when it is supposed to act, without fear or favour.
Likewise, the Office of the Ombudsman was a complete waste of time. I remember feeling bereft after a meeting with ex Ombudsman, Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino, in which he told me that the overcharging of all tenants was justified because some tenants absconded without paying their Arms bills. But of course, political parties, PN and PL are allowed to run up millions of euros in arrears. Also, the implication is that all homeowners have absolutely no Arms arrears.
I’m not a legal practitioner but I know that this is not constitutionally correct.
This is a quote from the Office of the Ombudsman website: “The Ombudsman’s objective is to develop a public service culture characterised by fairness, dedication, accountability and to promote the right to good public administration.”
I wish I could begin to describe the level of frustration I have felt, setback after setback after setback. I’m always on the look out for some new avenue, for some new way of holding not only Arms, the state, to account, but also the very institutions that are supposed to be our checks and balances.
For me to be given one bogus reason after another is the pinnacle of arrogance and ineptitude. An insult to my intelligence. This is only going to increase my determination that there will be a resolution. And you know what, these checks and balances – the NAO and the Office of the Ombudsman, funded by the taxpayer – have the despair and the angst of many tenants on their hands.
So there you have it folks. I insist that ALL our institutions are a complete waste of taxpayers' money. They do not hold anyone to account. This is what we should be changing.
AND the behaviour of the state towards the little people is important. Please don't dismiss people with serious concerns and traumatic personal experiences about the governance of our country as navel gazing.
How to win friends and influence voters, ħej.