Mario Cutajar refuses to explain why he lied about Muscat’s resignation letter

Mario Cutajar, head of the civil service, is refusing to explain why he did not publish Joseph Muscat’s resignation letter claiming at the time that he did not have it when it has now been revealed that he was in fact copied in on the correspondence.

In May, Cutajar had insisted that his office did not have a copy of the letter, saying in reply to a Freedom of Information request seen by The Shift that his office “was not in possession of the requested document in its general records”.

Yet last week disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat published his resignation letter “to avoid speculation”. It clearly showed that Cutajar was copied in on the letter as secretary to the Cabinet.

The Shift has sent questions to Cutajar demanding an explanation on why he had rejected a Freedom of Information request saying he did not possess the document he had received, according to the resignation letter Muscat published.

Cutajar did not reply to questions.

The Shift revealed last May that both President George Vella and Cutajar at the Office of the Prime Minister had turned down separate Freedom of Information requests to make available Muscat’s resignation letter.

President George Vella, a former member of Muscat’s Cabinet, turned down the request stating that its publication “would have an adverse effect on the function of the government”.

Cutajar’s reply that he did not have the document seemed strange considering his role as the head of the civil service. Cutajar was also Secretary to the Cabinet, a position that makes him privy to all the correspondence handled by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The resignation letter published by Joseph Muscat shows Secretary to the Cabinet Mario Cutajar was sent a copy.

According to the Freedom of Information Act, Cutajar, as a public official, was duty bound to reply faithfully to such a request and to make sure that such a document was handled according to the provisions of the law.

This was not the first time that Cutajar’s declarations were found to be false.

Last December, at the peak of the crisis faced by Muscat’s government following revelations that top officials in government were implicated in the plot to assassinate journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Cutajar was quick to deny giving a phantom government job to self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma.

He implied Theuma was lying to the police. Yet it emerged in court testimonies that this was in fact true. Cutajar later changed his version and confirmed the middleman turned State witness had indeed been given a government job.

Last month, Cutajar refused to step down following the arraignment of his brother, Aldo, accused of embezzlement of public funds while serving as Malta’s consul in Shanghai, China. He refused to resign despite public pressure, including from the Chamber of Commerce.

Questions have been raised about how Aldo Cutajar was promoted to a sensitive diplomatic post in China by the Foreign Affairs Ministry despite his criminal record. Such a position would have required clearance from the Malta Secret Service but it is all coordinated through the Principal Permanent Secretary’s Office led by his brother Mario.

Despite protocol, Cutajar claimed he had nothing to do with his brother’s posting.

Cutajar, 62, remains Principle Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Cabinet for Prime Minister Robert Abela.

Apart from his top salary and perks at the OPM, Cutajar is also receiving an extra €19,000 a year as executive director at Heritage Malta – a unique position created for him. His remuneration for this ‘second’ government job is more than that given to the chairman of the same government entity.

                           
                               

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