Prior to the 2013 general election Joseph Muscat frequently used to remark that corruption is a socially unjust tax which is levied across the board. In the case of the hospitals deal, the Maltese people have been robbed of more than €268 million, possibly close to €400 million.

The latest instalment of this saga, in the form of the third report from the National Audit Office, is yet another example of the poor levels of governance (to put it mildly) which has swept this country in the last decade. Some may even argue that this was a textbook case of institutionalised corruption whereby the State facilitates and colludes to perpetrate wrongdoing.

Though corruption was an issue before Labour swept to power in 2013, the series of scandals which took place under the Labour administration, especially under Joseph Muscat’s watch eclipsed anything we had seen before.  The secret Panama companies, the Electrogas tender and the links with 17 Black, the Montenegro wind farm, the fraudulent hospitals deal and the circumstances which surrounded the brutal killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia all happened within a space of a few years. In each of these scandals, names of prominent members of the ruling party in government and those in the inner circles of power, have cropped up at some time or another. While those outside political circles have been brought to justice, not the same can be said for the rest.

The most recent revelations have raised serious questions that Dr Muscat received payments to the tune of tens of thousands from Steward Health Care, the hospital concessionaire. This happened just a months after stepping down as prime minister. While we will not enter into the merits if these were some sort of kickbacks or not, even if this payment was given in return for consultancy work, it still goes against the revolving door policy. Many a time, government employees earning a modest wage, have been banned from doing part-time work within their line of specialisation, for fear this could pose a conflict of interest. However, it seems that these strict criteria do not apply for everyone.

True leadership entails bold decisions, the courage to stand up to be counted and denouncing what is manifestly wrong. Trying to stay on the fence all the time, pointing fingers to your predecessor and striving to keep your distance without actually breaking the ties, is a sign of weakness. This also implies that you cannot take credit for all the good enacted by your predecessor, but at the same time absolve yourself from the wrong doings. Accountability, and political responsibility does not come in the form of an a la carte menu.

Moreover, having been elected on the pledge of ‘continuity’ makes it even more paramount to bury a legacy which is poisoning the party in government as well as the trust in Malta’s institutions.