Concerns raised over Alex Dalli’s second-in-command remaining in place after prison director’s ‘self-suspension’

Dean of Faculty of Social Wellbeing describes situation as ‘time bomb’

 

The situation at Malta’s correctional facility is a “time bomb” despite the director-general, Alex Dalli, ‘self suspending’ himself, according to the Dean of the Faculty of Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta, who raised concerns about the COO at the prisons as well as other members of staff who remain in place despite subscribing to Dalli’s “authoritarian” methods.

Dean Andrew Azzopardi, a regular critic of Dalli’s disciplinary tactics, said the new acting director, Robert Brincau, cannot possibly manage to “have the necessary comfort to operate properly” when surrounded by the rest of Dalli’s administration, who subscribed to his authoritarian ideology and followed his model.

“This situation is a time bomb. How can the new director work in conditions in which practically everyone around him doesn’t trust him or his skills? In a prison regime, a disciplinary corps, decisions are taken one level at a time. Decisions are not taken at the bottom; it’s the leadership as a whole that needs to change if there are problems,” Azzopardi said.

While pointing towards Dalli as “the fulcrum” of the prison regime, Azzopardi believes that the whole executive administration around him, including COO Randolph Spiteri, has to go.

“The whole executive administration needs to go because this administration was working in Dalli’s model, along with the minister, Byron Camilleri. Both Camilleri and the prime minister, Robert Abela, had said Dalli was doing good work, so they were defending him against criticism levied at Dalli by people like me,” Azzopardi said.

Dalli’s system was not good, and they agreed with his system. So everything that happened, including the restraint chair, the conditions, and the denials about things like solitary confinement and so on, was on them as well,” he added.

The proof of what Azzopardi pointed out, he says, lies in the reports of separate petitions, one allegedly started by prisoners, some of which have gone on hunger strike, and one started by prison warders. According to the home affairs ministry, both petitions are seeking Dalli’s reinstatement to the role.

“The people around the acting director subscribed to Dalli’s model, and we are seeing this manifest itself in how the prison warders, not just the prisoners, are signing a petition that is subverting the authority of the acting director,” Azzopardi said, arguing that people who subscribed to Dalli’s methodology “will remain a pebble in the shoes of whoever tries to take charge”.

Referring to Spiteri, Azzopardi added that “as a second-in-command, one takes responsibility for accepting Dalli’s methods”, pointing out that Spiteri “signed every press release defending Dalli personally”.

Randolph Spiteri’s colourful past

CSA’s Chief Operations Officer, Randolph Spiteri.

Prior to his time as the Correctional Services Agency’s (CSA) COO, Spiteri served in various roles, none of which have anything to do with the administration of a prison.

Spiteri began his career in public administration with a PN government in 2004, serving as the communications coordinator for then-parliamentary secretary for agriculture and fisheries, Francis Agius. He also occupied roles within the Party structure, including working at NET and as an aide to George Pullicino.

The COO also previously worked with ELC, serving as a spokesperson for the landscaping consortium. In 2019, Spiteri spoke at a press conference in which then-home affairs minister Michael Farrugia praised the consortium for enrolling 17 prisoners on an in-community work programme.

After crossing over to Labour at some point after the party’s election in 2013, Spiteri was eventually made COO at CSA, despite his lack of experience. Since the start of Dalli’s three-year spell as director-general of the prison, Spiteri has been known to function as his right-hand man.

The COO was recently on the receiving end of the Ombudsman’s judgement following a complaint filed by ex-prison warder Emanuel Cassar, who had claimed that he was unfairly dismissed from the service in 2019 following a spat with Spiteri.

The argument, which was about a relatively minor issue concerning uniforms, was escalated to a disciplinary board that answers directly to Spiteri. Dalli had approved Spiteri’s request to escalate the issue to the disciplinary board, which led to Cassar’s dismissal.

Cassar is also currently facing libel proceedings instituted by Dalli and Spiteri following the former’s interview with Illum, in which he accused Dalli of repeatedly shoving pistols into prisoners’ mouths as well as engaging in what he described as provocative displays of militarism to incite riots inside the prison.

Questions have been sent to the home affairs ministry concerning the rest of Dalli’s administration and how they are still in place in spite of pending investigations on their conduct.

                           
                               
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