No action has as yet been taken by Prime Minister Robert Abela against MTA chairman Gavin Gulia and CEO Johann Buttigieg despite a report by the Public Standards Commissioner investigating the €90,000 contract given to Konrad Mizzi that names them for accommodating a demand by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat against procedures.
The report by Commissioner George Hyzler confirmed that it was Muscat who had instructed MTA CEO Johann Buttigieg to issue a lucrative consultancy contract to the former Minister two weeks after he resigned last November, as revealed by The Shift.
While Hyzler found Muscat guilty, once again, of abuse of power and breach of ethics, he also directed the blame on both the MTA’s chairman and its CEO, as both accommodated demands and in the process disregarded the law and failed to follow proper procedure.
In his replies to Hyzler during the investigation, Gulia tried to distance himself from Mizzi’s irregular contract. The chairman declared he was not aware of what was going on regarding this contract and shifted the blame on his subordinate, the CEO.
Gulia’s defence did not seem to have impressed Hyzler who lambasted them both for their actions and lack of responsibility. Gulia is a former Labour Minister who was placed at the helm of the MTA soon after his Party’s return to power in 2103.
Gulia was chastised for trying to give the impression that he did not know anything. Hyzler commented that this seemed to be very convenient for the MTA chairman.
Regarding Buttigieg, the Commissioner said that in his executive position, he was duty bound to inform his chairman and the MTA’s Board about the former Prime Minister’s request before proceeding.
So far, while Prime Minister Robert Abela acted immediately to terminate Mizzi’s €90,000 irregular consultancy contract, he has taken no measures to curtail the abuse perpetrated by the MTA chiefs.
The two have already been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons a number of times while serving Muscat’s government.
Buttigieg, who went from low-ranking officer at the Planning Authority (PA) to its CEO soon after the 2013 election, was criticised several times for questionable decisions taken.
Apart from revelations of his private travels overseas paid for by major developers, Buttigieg had also failed to inform the PA Board and his Minister at the time that he had decided to commission a consultancy firm to draw up a master plan for Paceville, despite the fact that the same firm was working for the Gozitan construction mogul Joseph Portelli on the Mercury Towers project situated right in the middle of the master plan’s brief.
While taxpayers forked out hundreds of thousands to this consultancy firm, its work had to be scrapped by the PA.
The Labour appointee has also hit the headlines when, as the PA’s CEO, he had controversially decided to lease a private plane to ferry one of the PA’s board members from a holiday in Sicily so that she could make it in time to vote in favour of Silvio Debono’s project in St George’s Bay.
Both the Prime Minister and Minister Ian Borg had condemned Buttigieg’s decision, but he remained in place.
After his contract at the PA came to an end, Muscat had placed Buttigieg as the CEO of the MTA even though he had no experience in the tourism sector.
Gulia, on the other hand, was regularly in the news last summer as the MTA faced criticism over the administration of millions in funds used for event sponsorships. The Shift had also revealed how two of the MTA’s currently leased properties are directly connected to Gulia’s family.
A villa in Msida belonging to Gulia’s father-in-law is being used by the MTA as offices for which taxpayers are forking out €50,000 a year. The MTA is also leasing a warehouse in Mriehel in which Gulia’s brother-in-law is one of the main shareholders. According to the contract signed on Gulia’s watch, taxpayers will be paying €250,000 for the lease of this warehouse between 2018 and 2022.