Standards committee publishes report on Justyne Caruana’s ‘abuse of power’

Standards in public life committee agrees to publication of report, additional evidence

 

The parliamentary committee tasked with monitoring ethical breaches committed by MPs agreed to publish a report compiled by standards commissioner George Hyzler which found education minister Justyne Caruana in breach of parliamentary ethics over her decision to award Daniel Bogdanovic a €15,000 contract for services he was not qualified to provide.

According to the conclusions of Hyzler’s report, Bogdanovic was given two employment opportunities through the ministry of education along with two other opportunities which never materialised. Bogdanovic was first employed through the Community Workers Scheme, a government programme originally meant to give people job skills training which The Shift had exposed as a means of assigning work that would often not even be carried out.

In December 2020, Bogdanovic was transferred to the education ministry, just days after Caruana was sworn in as minister of education on 23 November of the same year. In February of this year, Bogdanovic signed a €5,000 a month contract to carry out studies in relation to the National Sport School, according to Hyzler’s report.

Based on the evidence gathered through the investigation, Hyzler concluded that Caruana “committed abuse of power” through her decision to award “preferential treatment to Bogdanovic, in particular by giving him a contract through direct order which Bogdanovic was neither qualified or competent enough to carry out”, the report adds.

Earlier today, The Shift published a separate story detailing how a report on school sports programmes which was supposedly compiled by Bogdanovic was actually compiled by Paul Debattista, a paid consultant within the education ministry who was the aide of disgraced former European Commissioner John Dalli.

The meeting of the standards in public life committee, chaired by Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia and made up of Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, and Opposition MPs Therese Comodini Cachia and Karol Aquilina, was held to determine whether the report should be published in full.

While the committee did eventually agree to publish the report along with two annexes featuring additional evidence, the now familiar tit-for-tat between government and Opposition MPs was nonetheless still present following the Speaker’s stated concerns over publishing information about family members of the people directly involved in the investigation, including the education minister herself.

The committee agreed to strike out one sentence in particular from a letter that the education minister had sent to the standards commissioner on 22 October 2021. Bedingfield claimed that while the government agreed with the publication of the report, he was disappointed about how “documents that go through this committee are being leaked before we have time to discuss them”.

In reality, Bedingfield neglected to mention that complainants are always given a copy of the report upon conclusion, meaning that it was not necessarily a politically-motivated “leak”.

Citing previous standards committee hearings featuring former parliamentary secretary Rosianne Cutajar, Comodini Cachia argued that “for transparency and accountability’s sake, given this is a report of public interest, all of the information should be published, not just the report itself”.

Cutajar was found to have breached parliamentary ethics when Hyzler found enough prima facie evidence to conclude that she was involved in a brokerage deal for a €3 million home in Mdina featuring murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

However, after several chaotic sittings in which MPs accused each other of partisan interest and a lack of respect for the procedures of the committee for hours on end, the committee had failed to agree to adopt Cutajar’s report and publish it in full.

                           
                               
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