The Principal of MCAST, James Calleja, was given a second state-funded position – and being paid two separate salaries – boosting his annual income from taxpayer funds to almost €120,000 a year, more than twice the sum that’s officially paid to his Minister Justyne Caruana, The Shift has found.
Apart from his lucrative five-year contract as principal of the Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST), which also give him generous allowances that also expand his financial package, The Shift has discovered that Calleja was also granted a separate €40,000 a year ‘contract of service’ to act as a consultant to the same education ministry that employs him at MCAST.
Calleja refused to answer questions about his second paid position or to explain how he finds the time to fulfil the extra 25 hours a week duty on his ‘consultancy’ at the ministry.
Neither did he explain whether he obtained the necessary permission to do a part-time job, which according to education ministry sources is “very conflicting with his position as principal at MCAST”.
According to rules adopted by MCAST, all members of staff at the tertiary education institution need to get permission in writing from the principal (James Calleja) to do any type of work outside office hours.
It is not known whether Calleja has been given the MCAST board’s permission, or that of the politically appointed Board Chairman Ian Refalo, to do this extra work.
€77,000 as MCAST Principal not generous enough
A former Head of Secretariat to then-PN Parliamentary Secretary George Hyzler who was later promoted to a permanent secretary, Calleja was one of only three permanent secretaries left in their post after Labour was returned to power in 2013.
He was then selected by then-Education Minister Evarist Bartolo to replace former MCAST Principal, Stephen Cachia, after the latter’s contract was not renewed.
While Calleja was initially given a three-year contract by then college President, Silvio Debono – also a political appointee who was running his private education institution at the same time as heading MCAST– Calleja was awarded his second contract, this time a five-year deal, earlier this year on the instructions of Justyne Caruana.
Apart from an annual salary of €47,000 a year, Calleja’s new contract is peppered with annual ‘allowances’ clearly intended to inflate his remuneration, all of which is paid by taxpayers.
These include a communication allowance – €2,000; responsibility allowance – €7,000; expense allowance – €8,000; travel allowance – €4,658; performance allowance – €7,000 and a qualification allowance – €1,100 – pushing his package up to €77,000 a year.
Calleja appears to have negotiated a much better contract than his predecessor Stephen Cachia, who was paid less than €60,000 a year for the same role.
The Shift has now also discovered that apart from his hefty financial package, which compared to other public sector grades is especially generous, Calleja was also given a separate ‘consultancy’ contract by the education minister, for which he was paid an additional €40,000 a year.
According to his consultancy contract, Calleja is bound to work an extra 25 hours a week to provide advice on the ‘national skills strategy for the labour market’ – which is surprising given this should clearly already be covered by his role at MCAST – the island’s institution for vocational training.
Calleja has failed to respond to queries about when he is providing this consultancy, what time is he attending the education ministry, where his office is and whether this consultancy is still ongoing.
His last one year contract expired earlier this year and it is not yet known whether it was renewed.
Calleja refused to give any details.
His only reply to The Shift’s questions was: “I completely (evidence-based) fulfil my job as Principal/CEO. The trust reposed in me by successive ministers is ample confirmation of this.”
Only last week The Shift revealed that a police investigation has been ongoing for the past two years on a damning inquiry report which recommended criminal action against top MCAST officials for perjury and falsification of interview examination results in order to help politically recommended lecturers get certain posts.
The report also states that this ‘recommendations system’ was also used for higher-ranking posts, including the recruitment of the principal.
Also, MCAST is being accused by one of its most experienced senior lecturers, Peter Gatt, of a campaign of ‘victimisation’.
According to Gatt, the orchestrated campaign against him started soon after he reported about an alleged web of abuse among lecturers and in the college’s administration. The senior lecturer was taken off lecturing duties, declared persona non grata and eventually transferred to a secondary school.
The court blocked this transfer, while the Ombudsman described MCAST’s reaction as “an oppressive act tantamount to degrading treatment”.
Just a day after the court ordered MCAST to stop the transfer, Principal Calleja wrote to Gatt informing him that he would not be receiving his salary any longer as he was no longer considered to be an MCAST staff member.
Court proceedings instituted by Gatt against MCAST are ongoing.