A consultancy contract worth close to €90,000 issued to former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi just two weeks after his forced resignation in 2019 was never discussed by the Board of the Malta Tourism Authority but was handled directly by its CEO, Johann Buttigieg, The Shift can reveal.
Buttigieg received “verbal instructions” from still unidentified authorities to offer the consultancy to Mizzi who had been the Minister responsible for the MTA until two weeks before signing the contract, which was drafted and executed solely by Buttigieg – himself a political appointee – and no correspondence exists to document the transaction.
In what has become a standard reply, the MTA could not provide any documents, saying there were none in their possession. Yet, The Times of Malta had published pages from the contract but the MTA is saying there is no document trail on why it was given or who ordered it.
In its reply, seen by The Shift, the MTA admits that this lucrative contract, awarding Mizzi €90,000 annually, was never discussed by the MTA Board, and all instructions for the contract’s execution were provided verbally to Buttigieg.
“In view of the fact that instructions were given verbally, there are no written instructions and/or exchanges in relation to the said contract, and hence the Authority is not in a position to provide these documents,” the MTA said.
“The MTA Board provides macro and strategic direction and does not discuss, approve or otherwise… contracts for service.”
So far, MTA CEO Buttigieg, who was catapulted to the MTA from the Planning Authority without former experience or qualifications, has not said who provided the verbal instructions to hire Mizzi, his former Minister, as a consultant for the MTA.
An ongoing investigation by the Standards Commissioner, following a request by Alternattiva Demokratika, is expected to shed more light on the controversy.
Mizzi was forced to resign from the Cabinet on November 26, 2019, over corruption scandals linked to journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
Buttigieg and Mizzi signed the consultancy contract barely two weeks following his resignation, on December 9, 2019.
As called for in the contract, Mizzi was to receive €80,400 per year, along with other benefits, including a fully-expensed executive level car, a full time driver and free medical insurance for himself, his wife and children, who do not reside in Malta.
Upon the election of Abela as Prime Minister in January 2020, and the revelations in the press about this contract, Mizzi’s consultancy was immediately ended and the contract was withdrawn.
The MTA has been hit with a series of scandals in past weeks, as its administration and finances are being scrutinised by the Public Affairs Committee.
Earlier, The Shift revealed that the MTA is renting a villa in B’kara for €50,000 per year from the father-in-law of Gulia, its Chairman. Also, a €4.5 million ‘marketing’ contract was issued to VistaJet, an airline for millionaires, with no apparent services performed by the airline.
At the same time, the MTA funnelled millions in public funds to the same group of individuals for organising summer parties, as the Agency’s budget tripled in just one year.
Lionel Gerada – who had earlier been involved in embezzlement, and who was a person of trust to Mizzi – was made responsible for administering the Agency’s budget as its Events Director.