Last Tuesday, the Auditor General published a report entitled A Review of the employment agreement of the Consultant to the Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Tourism Studies. It addresses my request to the Auditor General, submitted on behalf of ADPD-The Green Party, to investigate the matter, which request was submitted eight months earlier.
There have been some interesting developments over the week, subsequent to the publication of the Auditor General’s report. Robert Abela, as Prime Minister, pointed fingers at Konrad Mizzi, the disgraced former Labour Minister. Konrad Mizzi, at this point is a very convenient scapegoat! Worse than that, however, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has publicly defended ITS CEO Pierre Fenech. According to Clayton Bartolo, the ITS CEO was carrying out superior orders, that is orders of the former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi!
Minister Bartolo should know better than that. He knows that obeying superior orders is no defence in shielding yourself or others from the consequences of criminal action which the “fraudulent” and “irregular” job “in breach of all policies and procedures” at the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) amounts to, in the Auditor General’s own words.
Minister Bartolo’s defence of the ITS CEO Pierre Fenech may be indicative of a damage control exercise as, possibly, the Rosianne Cutajar case is just the tip of the iceberg. There could be much more rot at ITS which can only be uncovered as a result of an in-depth investigation of its operations. The Auditor General has shown the way. It is now up to the Commissioner of Police to dig deeper: in particular ITS Chief Pierre Fenech should be held accountable for his actions. At the end of the day, it was he that made the phantom job possible. He should now carry the can.
This is not the first case of its kind. Currently pending before our criminal Courts is another case on the creation of another phantom job: that of Melvin Theuma. This particular phantom job was created within the OPM laboratory. In fact, the Police have arraigned five persons to answer criminal charges on the creation of the Theuma phantom job. Melvin Theuma was paid with this job for services rendered in brokering the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Even Melvin Thuma cashed his pay cheque and never turned up for work.
Among those arraigned by the Police was the then CEO of the state-owned company Housing Maintenance and Embellishment Co Ltd, which company issued Melvin Theuma’s pay-cheques.
Likewise, Pierre Fenech, ITS Chief Executive, should answer for his criminal action in creating Rosianne Cutajar’s phantom job, as a result defrauding the public purse of the monies disbursed. The Minister’s testimonial in this case is intended as an indirect public pressure on the Police not to take any action.
In my request to the Auditor General on 28 March 2023 I had pointed out that the duties of the post of consultant to the ITS CEO were incompatible with the known competencies of the Hon Rosianne Cutajar! She was a qualified teacher of Italian in secondary schools, yet she was expected to advise on strategic management issues of the Institute of Tourism Studies as well as on issues of its financial administration.
The Auditor General’s report confirms the widely held view on the phantom nature of Cutajar’s employment at ITS. In addition, as a result of the meticulous investigation carried out by the National Audit Office team it has also been concluded that practically all the rules regulating public sector recruitment were ignored. Rules which were developed over the years to ensure good governance in the public sector, of which the ITS forms part, were thrown overboard.
The creation of phantom jobs in the public sector is clearly a misappropriation of public funds. Those responsible should be arraigned in our criminal courts. It is for this purpose that ADPD-The Green Party is insisting that the next step after the Auditor General’s report is criminal action against all those involved in this fraudulent action.
The Police should, however, in their investigation, look beyond Rosianne Cutajar’s phantom job. It should delf deeper into the ITS operations. This could well be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. No wonder Robert Abela and Clayton Bartolo are keen to pin this on Konrad Mizzi.
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 3 December 2023