The recently broken fisheries scandal involving Andreina Fenech Farrugia shows that the controls at “ground level”, despite being there on paper, need to improve and require reforms, Environment Minister Jose Herrera told The Malta Independent.
Asked by this newsroom for updates with regards to the situation pertaining to Andreina Fenech Farrugia, who was suspended from the post of director of the Fisheries Department last week, Herrera said that he did not want to comment on individual cases, adding that when there are allegations these should be investigated in a transparent manner as is being done.
Herrera also noted that everybody is presumed innocent and has the right to defend themselves.
The Environment Minister however did admit that these allegations have showed that there the current controls at ground, which are there on paper, need a push and reform so that they are carried out in a more scrutinised manner.
“It’s not easy to control projects which are offshore”, Herrera said before adding that however there were studies into the best methodology which will assure that abuses at ground level are, as much as possible, eliminated.
He said that in the coming days he, along with Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights Clint Camilleri, would be taking the initiative to work on the process to carry out the necessary reforms so that the regulatory framework for the fisheries sector would be suitably
Fenech Farrugia was suspended indefinitely last week after Spain’s El Confidencial published transcripts that allegedly show how she asked Spanish tuna Jose Fuentes, also the owner of the local Mare Blu tuna farm, for payments.
The leaked transcripts also suggest that Fenech Farrugia was allegedly using her role as Fisheries director to influence Environment Minister in favour of Fuentes, with whom she seems to have had a cosy relationship.
A number of fish farm operators contacted by The Malta Independent on Sunday all had the same general notion: that Fenech Farrugia had always favoured Fuentes during negotiations and discussions and that she was, as one put it, “mostly inclined towards Fuentes and his industry”.
Fenech Farrugia meanwhile has insisted that payments were only made to her in her official capacity as director while insisting that she was “singled out” in an extensive investigation that included many operators.
The suspended director said the allegations levelled against her were based on summaries of alleged phone calls she could not confirm as having been made. The transcripts, she said, were not word-for-word, which means that some parts may have been misinterpreted or taken out of context. The Spanish language used in the summaries was of very poor quality, she said, which may have also led to misinterpretation.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Environment ministry said last week that neither Environment Minister Jose Herrera nor Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri have even been directly or indirectly contacted by Jose Fuentes, after some of the leaked transcripts seemed to show that Fenech Farrugia spoke to Fuentes about meetings with the “minister” and other “government officials.”.
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