The government has declined to grant whistleblower status to a former employee who reported alleged ‘abuse’ and ‘nepotism’ at the Social Care Standards Authority (SCSA) when the 74-year-old father of the politically appointed chairperson was given a job as a junior legal officer.
The Shift has learned that the whistleblower, who exposed this case among ‘many’ allegedly committed under the chairmanship of Labour candidate Katya De Giovanni, was informed by two lawyers from the Ministry for Senior Citizens that his report would not be investigated “as the whistleblower reporting officer (of the ministry) considered that the allegations were based on speculation and did not merit any further investigation”.
The government’s decision to turn down a report to investigate the alleged abuse of one of its own persons of trust comes just after Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis ‘announced’ earlier this month that changes are to be introduced to ensure that “whistleblower protection is extended to those who help colleagues flag abuse.”
The Shift revealed in August that the 74-year old Anthony De Giovanni, a Labour stalwart from Fgura, was put on the government’s payroll on a full-time basis to work as a junior legal officer at the SCSA.
At the time, De Giovanni’s own daughter, Katya De Giovanni, who will be contesting on the Labour ticket during the next general election, was chairperson of the same government agency, a position she received as a political appointment from the Labour government.
The Shift had also reported that De Giovanni, a former Labour mayor of Fgura, has been receiving a government pension since 2008, when he retired as a director at the Education Ministry.
Just a few weeks after he was hired as a legal advisor to his daughter’s agency, De Giovanni was sacked from the Education Ministry, where he was acting as a consultant, after being caught abusing of government IT equipment to change the Wikipedia profile of a Dutch MEP who was criticizing the government on issues to do with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Ministry stalling information
So far, the minister responsible for the SCSA is refusing to answer any questions about this case, and has turned down Freedom of Information requests by The Shift.
Both Senior Citizens Minister Michael Farrugia and his government-paid spokesperson Charmaine Craus, ignored questions asking for explanations as to why the whistleblower was denied his status once he reported alleged wrongdoing. They also refused to state why ministry lawyers dismissed the accusations as ‘speculation’ when in the case of Katya De Giovanni, it has been proved that her pensioner father was recruited during her chairmanship.
The same ministry is also refusing to state who were the members on the interviewing board who selected Anthony De Giovanni for the job and has declined to publish its evaluation report. According to the Ministry, the publication of this information “would prejudice the effectiveness of procedures for the conduct of tests” and that the results of the evaluation board “are considered as personal data” and should not be published.
The Shift has appealed this decision to the Commissioner for Information and Data Protection, arguing that full disclosure is in the public interest. The case is still under investigation by the Commissioner.
Comfortable top up for De Giovanni’s pension
Signed in July 2020 by the then CEO of the SCSA Matthew Vella, later promoted to Permanent Secretary, the one-year contract awarded to the novice lawyer obliged De Giovanni to work on a full-time basis, mainly to advise the CEO and any other member of the agency as directed by the board, presided over by the junior lawyer’s daughter.
In return, De Giovanni was to be paid €22,000 a year over and above his full pension rights.
Unusually, De Giovanni’s contract permitted him to be “absent from his place of work during working days to attend meetings and conferences which the CEO or his Head of Office directs him to attend”.
Although the employment contract of De Giovanni, seen by The Shift, was to have ended in July 2021, The Shift is informed that a new contract, with different conditions, has been given to the chairperson’s father.
The junior lawyer’s daughter was appointed to chair the SCSA for three years in a direct government appointment signed by Family Affairs Minister Michael Falzon.
She was appointed after Labour had recruited her through the so-called Lead programme – a Labour Party initiative to attract female politicians.
Katya is married to engineer Kenneth Chircop, who was also given a lucrative position in another government agency as CEO of Malta Air Traffic Service.
Junior lawyer guilty of human rights’ violation
Research conducted by The Shift also shows that the pensioner-lawyer was also condemned some years ago of violating human rights.
In 2007, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg unanimously condemned Malta for violating the human rights of the minority local councilors in Fgura.
De Giovanni, as Labour mayor of the locality, had sued fellow councilors for libel. This action was held to violate the right of freedom of expression and Malta – and its taxpayers – was condemned to pay substantial damages to De Giovanni’s victims.