As NGOs currently navigate increasing red tape to raise funds, one ‘charity’ appears immune from such problems – Michelle Muscat’s Marigold Foundation.
The Marigold Foundation was given in excess of €500,000 in taxpayer funds, an analysis of public data carried out by the Shift shows. The Foundation was established in 2014, but well over half of the amount taxpayers ‘donated’ to the charity – €326,336 – was given in just three years between 2017 and 2019.
These numbers double when the €100,000 per year ‘standing donation’ from Bank of Valletta (BOV) is added. The government-controlled bank that first set up the charity, handed over control of Marigold to Muscat for just €100, The Shift had revealed.
The single greatest government donor was the Malta Gaming Authority with a staggering €150,000, of which €90,000 was granted in just 2018 and 2019.
Coming in second is the Ministry for Education with €68,000, all of which was donated between 2017 and 2019, the data shows.
The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) comes in third with €52,000, mainly donated between 2019 and 2020.
When donations are analysed according to Ministry, the data shows that the single greatest Ministerial ‘donor’ (using taxpayer funds) was Michelle Muscat’s own husband, Joseph Muscat.
Between mid-2017 and 2019, Muscat’s OPM was responsible for the granting of over €140,000 to his wife’s Foundation from entities and agencies under his remit.
Edward Scicluna (Finance) and Evarist Bartolo (Education) come in second and third place with €91,590 and €63,000, respectively.
The analysis is based on data published in the Government Gazette over the years, as well as replies to parliamentary questions, including those asked by Opposition MP Claudette Buttigieg following The Shift’s original report on Michelle Muscat taking over Marigold.
While the figures raise questions about a government using the public’s money to further fund a charitable Foundation that is already funded by the public’s donations, these numbers only tell half the story.
Marigold has, over the years, also benefited from generous ‘in kind’ support by various Ministries as well as State resources to raise its profile. These “in kind” benefits include Ministries allowing the use of national venues at no charge, AFM bosses allocating army resources to escort Michelle Muscat during her now legendary swims, the Department of Information issuing press releases on behalf of Marigold or a Ministry putting Michelle Muscat’s and Marigold’s name to an EU-funded project.
The fact that the charity is fronted, and now owned, by the wife of the prime minister when the ‘donations’ were made, only serves to amplify concerns.
The support Muscat’s Foundation has received stands in stark contrast to recent moves to introduce measures intended to suffocate NGOs and limit their ability to fundraise while empowering the government to sanction, censor and in effect ban NGOs who express views or campaign for policies of which the government disapproves, according to Repubblika. A group of 79 organisations have called for the new fundraising rules imposed by the government to be scrapped.