Foundation for Medical Services riddled with employment and financial irregularities – NAO

The Foundation for Medical Services (FMS) – run by Health Minister Chris Ferne’s election campaign manager Carmen Ciantar – has been found to be riddled with recruitment, employment and financial irregularities, according to a recent audit conducted by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Among the irregularities flagged by the NAO are dozens of ‘persons of trust’ hired on generous public salaries without any form of accountability, promotions given to staff before they sat for interviews, employees paid higher salaries than they are entitled to, and persons of trust employed on an indefinite basis in contravention of public service rules.

The audit also found that one of the highest officials at the FMS was also recruited irregularly and is being given substantial performance bonuses without the approval of Minister Fearne and the Foundation’s board of governors. The official was not named in the report.

According to the audit, the FMS, which falls under the direct political responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister, is being used as some sort of “recruitment agency for the Health Ministry,” hiring staff on a ‘person of trust’ basis.

The FMS, originally founded in 1990 to act as the project-manager of the Mater Dei hospital project, is now charged with carrying out the project-management and technical services operations of the Health Ministry.

Ninety irregular ‘persons of trust’

One of the most glaring findings in the NAO’s 2020 audit was that a total of 90, FMS ‘officials’, who are pegged to its salary’s structure – significantly higher than the public service pay structure – have never actually worked at the Foundation, but were instead deployed in other departments and entities within the Health Ministry. 

In some instances, officials were also working with ministries that had no connection of any kind with health. 

It also resulted that 23 of these ‘FMS officials’ were on contracts involving headship posts, all on a ‘position of trust’ basis.

The NAO said that all these positions do not feature on the Foundations’ HR plan and were not approved by the Industrial Relations Unit at the OPM, as required by standard procedure.

The NAO said that it considers this recruitment process “as a means of by-passing standard government employment practices”.

The audit also discovered that other officials, this time working at the FMS, were also employed on a ‘person of trust’ basis without the required approval of the minister and the permanent secretary at the Health Ministry. 

According to rules in place, ‘persons of trust’ can only be employed when a public vacancy call is not filled. However, in the case of the FMS, persons of trust were engaged even though no public call was ever made.

Also, it was found that many other FMS officials are being paid higher salaries than they are entitled to.

For example, a non-warranted engineer was being paid 2,000 more than entitled, while another was given a car cash allowance he was not entitled to “on a personal basis”.

While the public service and other ‘independent’ public entities have hit the headlines on numerous occasions for having hired hundreds of ‘persons of trust’ over the past few years, the NAO has found that the FMS is now also transforming these contracts into ‘indefinite contracts’ – something which is totally illegal.

It was also found that one ‘person of trust’ employed in a high level position was given a five-year contract, when the rules dictate that such agreements should only be entered into on an annual, renewable basis.

The audit found that a number of FMS officials occupying headship positions are being paid more than the maximum salary approved by the OPM, while an officer was being paid a qualification allowance for the attainment of a master’s degree even though this did not feature in the FMS structure and was not included in the officer’s employment contract.

FMS president going beyond his powers

The audit noticed that while there are specific rules which the FMS is clearly ignoring, particularly where it comes to recruitment, the president of the Foundation, Joseph Sammut, a political appointee of Minister Chris Fearne, is assuming responsibilities he does not have.

For example, while the employment contracts of four officials at the FMS were entered into with the government of Malta, the signing party on behalf of the latter was the FMS President rather than the respective minister and permanent secretary.

FMS President Joseph Sammut

According to the law, the FMS president is not a government official.

The same appeared to be happening when it comes to the approval of substantial bonuses – paid from state coffers – to high-ranking officials.

According to the NAO, while the employment contract of a high-ranked official stipulated that performance was to be assessed by the FMS board and the minister, the appraisal and payment to the official was only endorsed by the FMS president.

“It was also noted that although Board approval indicated that the performance bonus percentages were as recommended by the Minister (Chris Fearne), documentation showing the specific recommendations in support of the above was not available, thus, the respective payment could not be verified”.

PN remains mum on FMS irregularities

FMS sources told The Shift that despite the unruly way which the Foundation has been managed over recent years, the PN opposition seems to be lacking any initiative to keep the government agency in check.

This is confirmed by the fact that the PN’s shadow minister for health, Stephen Spiteri, has never criticised the way the FMS is being administered and has failed to ask a single parliamentary question on the entity managed by Minister Fearne’s chief political campaigner.

Among its top managers, the FMS employs PN MP Clyde Puli – the former general secretary of the PN.

 

                           
                               
guest

19 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chris
Chris
8 months ago

“Among its top managers, the FMS employs PN MP Clyde Puli – the former general secretary of the PN.” Surpise! Surprise! Adds to the ‘credibility’ of PN, doesn’t it? The PN church is so broad, it might as well swallow up Labour. Except that, right now, it seems to be the other way around.

viv
viv
8 months ago

I would guess the most terrifying part of drowning is when that first wave throws a huge unwelcome splat of brine straight into your face and down your oesophagus. I imagine that would be when the fatigue really starts to kick in.

R Pace Bonello
R Pace Bonello
8 months ago

Why is the PN mumm about this corrupt institution?

Joseph
Joseph
8 months ago
Reply to  R Pace Bonello

Who is accountable for all these irregularities? The auditor has submitted his report and now what?
A small island where everything is permissible. As free as the wind blows.

diffidentia
diffidentia
8 months ago
Reply to  R Pace Bonello

Why? Because it was the PN that started it all. If it speaks out, they will have to defend themselves.

J. Bianchi
J. Bianchi
8 months ago
Reply to  R Pace Bonello

Maybe because one of the PN top officials is a high ranking employee in the same FMS and this person has been their since 2007!!

Mick
Mick
8 months ago

Politicians, Crooks in suits, every single one of them, along with Bankers, Developers,.

Vince
Vince
7 months ago
Reply to  Mick

poli, from the greek many, ticks – blood sucking pests- put together politics- manybloodsucking pests

Stephen John Newton
Stephen John Newton
5 months ago
Reply to  Mick

Agreed

Kizzy
Kizzy
8 months ago

What is not evidenced in the article is the level of chaos and destruction, of both records and employees, that is taking place in the departments that these people are utterly unfit to run.

diffidentia
diffidentia
8 months ago
Reply to  Kizzy

I do not agree with chaos and destruction. Many things moved forward with the setting up of these institutions. Mismanagement and abuse is another story.

Kizzy
Kizzy
8 months ago
Reply to  diffidentia

Certain ‘Persons of Trust’ have been placed in management positions in existing service departments that they are not competent to lead, and then tried to run them like a personal fiefdom. In order to cover up their incompetence they firstly reduced and secondly stopped keeping statistics entirely on the service provision. They then further attempted to go against the Ministry’s documentation retention policy by trying to order the destruction of files, citing ‘the Data Protection Act’.

All this was documented and brought to the attention of the Directorate, with no action, apart from the enforcement of the retention policy. Said Person of Trust remains in place, with a vengeance, and the service is turning to dust.

You might call is mismanagement and abuse, I call it chaos and destruction..

diffidentia
diffidentia
8 months ago
Reply to  Kizzy

I can agree to that. I try not to discredit others that are doing a good job and probably hiding this person’s inefficiency.

JOHN CASSAR
8 months ago

Imbaghad Clyde Puli jigi quddiem it-Television jipprova jikkonvincina kemm hu subajgh dritt. Ghax ma jghidilniex li il-job li ghandu fl-FMS gie rregalat lilu ghax kien bazuzlu tal-PN taht l-amministrazzjoni Nazzjonalista. M’hemmx x’taghzel bejn iz-zewg partiti. It-tnejn korrotti

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
8 months ago

SHAME ON YOU.

John Vassallo
John Vassallo
8 months ago

To prove he is capable and trustworthy in cleaning up irregularities and corruption, Dr Chris Fearne should with immediate affect remove Carmen Ciantar and Joseph Sammut from FMS. Following that, he should terminate and revoke all employment contracts dished out not in conformance with engagement regulations.

Stefan
Stefan
8 months ago

Mhux ahjar we the tax payers demand that Dr Fearne publishes the Stewards Contract, and a list of who approved the contract, with the 100 million euro penalty clause.

Vince
Vince
7 months ago

and I thought Fearn was clean..kemm jien fidil!
Also lately Fearn threw a buffett dinner at the notorious Montekristo estates. I wonder if he paid the bill and VAT

Stephen John Newton
Stephen John Newton
5 months ago

Shameful abuses of the Laws for Public Management of taxpayers money. This must not be allowed to go unanswered and action taken to restore public confidence.
It would seem that PN and PL all drink at the same trough. We need a coalition of the smaller parties to truly challenge this duopoly.

Related Stories

Tax havens: Maltese FDI raises ‘dirty money’ influx concerns in South Korea
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through money flows from Malta-based
After seven-figure deal, developer Ta’ Dirjanu moves into Xlendi restaurant that requires sanctioning
Gozitan property developer Mark Agius – better known as

Our Awards and Media Partners

Award logo Award logo Award logo