Times of Malta, 25th April 2008, by Mark Micallef-

Mepa’s audit officer, Joe Falzon, says his office is swamped by complaints and he is finding it difficult to cope.

“At the moment, frankly, I am swamped. After the Mistra case, particularly, and the media exposure it was given, I was inundated with complaints and I’m not coping,” he said.

After his investigating officer, Carmel Cacopardo, was not reappointed, the audit office never really picked up the pace, Mr Falzon added.

Mr Cacopardo’s reappointment had become the centre of a bitter tug-of-war between Mepa chairman Andrew Calleja, Mr Falzon and Mr Cacopardo, which eventually led to repeated resignation threats by the auditor.

Mepa insisted that Mr Cacopardo’s position was untenable, particularly in view of a conflict of interest stemming from the fact that he publicly questioned the credentials of the man appointed director for environment protection, a post for which Mr Cacopardo himself had applied.

Both the auditor and Mr Cacopardo rebutted the claims publicly, with Mr Falzon insisting that the choice of the investigating officer was ultimately his and not Mepa’s.

The Mepa chairman at one point had asked Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino to intervene. While turning down the request to step in as arbiter, the Ombudsman proposed that his office services the audit office’s administrative needs to compensate for the loss of the investigating officer.

At one point the talks between the Ombudsman and Mr Falzon on the proposal appeared as though they might stall but an agreement was eventually reached and the audit officer accepted the offer.

When asked about this new arrangement, Mr Falzon said that, so far, the two offices were still trying to link up through IT. “We’ll install that and see how it works… Unfortunately it took us a long time,” he said, adding that the previous arrangement with a part-time investigating officer attached to his office was the ideal set up.

It is clear Mr Falzon remains sore about the matter. In fact, at a business breakfast on Mepa reform yesterday, he insisted, as he had done on previous occasions, that Mr Cacopardo’s effective dismissal was an example of why the planning authority ended up in the bad situation it is now.

“It’s a question of political will at the end of the day… He (Mr Cacopardo) was doing a good job, efficiently, but he was removed simply because he dared criticise the chairman, that is the minister,” Mr Falzon said.