The Minister for the Elderly, Micheal Farrugia, has recruited convicted fraudster Anthony Ellul to run the Active Ageing and Community Care administration, responsible for all the State’s services for the elderly.
Senior ministry officials told The Shift that following last year’s reshuffle, when Farrugia was given the new portfolio just nine months after taking up the energy Ministry, he ordered Ellul to set up an office at the Active Ageing offices in Qormi and all staff were to report to his ‘advisor’.
The officials said that although Ellul is just a person of trust and does not form part of the public service, all applications connected to elderly services are being scrutinised by him. They said that priority is being given to ‘clients’ residing in the 12th electoral district – Farrugia’s constituency.
Ellul is not known to hold any sort of qualifications in the sector but is one of the main canvassers and personal friends of the Minister.
Asked repeatedly by The Shift to state whether Ellul has been given the obligatory security clearance before his appointment as his advisor, Minister Farrugia did not reply. Neither did he comment on the fact that his advisor has a criminal record or the political direction given to prioritising citizens from his electoral district.
Ellul, who also acts as a Labour Party official during the electoral process, was found guilty of defrauding a bank through counterfeit banknotes and was given a suspended jail sentence in 2003.
In its decision, the court observed that Ellul had “deliberately and consciously provided the bank tellers with a false name, false address and a false ID card number”.
The court also underlined that during a police search of Ellul’s car, more counterfeit dollar banknotes were found.
This is not the first time the close connection between Minister Farrugia and Ellul has been the focus of attention.
In 2013, upon Labour’s election to power, Ellul was appointed by Farrugia as his private secretary. Following the 2017 election, when Farrugia was made responsible for Home Affairs by disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Ellul was appointed chairman of the Prison Board.
Following media reports that Ellul’s appointment was ‘illegal’ due to his criminal record, which by law precludes him from holding such a position, he resigned.
Ellul justified his appointment by stating that it was not fair that he could not contribute due to “a mistake” he had committed years earlier.
Officials from the Active Aging department told The Shift, on condition of anonymity, that although there is an official director in charge of elderly services, all decisions are being taken by Ellul.
They complained that they are being ‘forced’ to discriminate among clients, with those coming from the Minister’s district being given priority.
The department is responsible for various services that have a direct impact on the quality of life of vulnerable people and their immediate families.
These include decisions on who is given a bed at a government residential home for the elderly, as well as those run by the private sector financed through government funds.
Most of the private residential homes for the elderly depend on government contracts. They are paid millions from taxpayers funds every year for the government to purchase beds.
Other services, including the provision of personalised services to the elderly, such as home help, community care, handyman services, respite at home, meals on wheels and dementia day centres are also provided by the same Ministry.
These services are in high demand among the vulnerable and Ministerial intervention could literally change the lives of those involved and their families.