Fearne puts his campaign manager on €163,000 ‘irregular’ contract

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne has put one of his main personal campaign managers, Carmen Ciantar, on a public contract worth €163,000 a year.

Ciantar’s contract as the CEO of the Foundation for Medical Services (FMS), which falls under Fearne’s remit as health minister, is the latest in a series of administrative scandals hitting the government.

The five-year contract with Ciantar that commenced in 2019 was deemed “irregular” by the Auditor General because the minister was not entitled to give his canvasser a five-year contract on a person of trust basis.

Although the NAO did not mention Ciantar by name, investigations by The Shift can reveal that the “high-ranking official” cited in the NAO audit was a direct reference to Minister Fearne’s canvasser.

Through this contract, Ciantar has become one of the highest-paid employees on the State’s payroll, which will see her cashing in a staggering €13,500 a month by the end of her term.

The only known other public official who was given a higher paid contract is Kurt Farrugia, the former communications aide of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, appointed CEO of Malta Enterprise just a few months before Muscat’s resignation.

€5,000 a year increase for Ciantar

According to Ciantar’s most recent contract as CEO of the FMS, appointed without any call and on Minister Fearne’s direct instructions, she has become entitled to a basic salary of €115,000 a year, increasing by €5,000 a year, reaching a whopping €130,000 – more than twice her own minister’s salary.

Apart from her basic income, Ciantar is also entitled to a 20% annual performance bonus to be approved by the minister, a car allowance of almost €7,000 a year, a continuous professional development allowance of €1,000 a year and a full health insurance package – for a 51-year-old, this is estimated to costs taxpayers an additional €5,000 a year.

The whole package given to Ciantar will see her rake in over €700,000 from State coffers in salaries and allowances over the five-year period.

Ciantar was already FMS CEO, placed there in 2016 by Fearne. At the time, her initial three-year contract was worth some €80,000 a year. Yet, before the first contract had even elapsed, the Minister agreed to give Ciantar a substantial increase.  There is no evident reason for this but the timing coincided with her support of his campaign to become Deputy Leader of the governing Labour Party.

Contract irregular and against policy – NAO

In a recent audit, the NAO highlighted a series of irregularities surrounding the contract.

Referring to her first three-year contract in 2016, the NAO said: “Documentation illustrating that the engagement was endorsed by the required parties, including the respective Minister (Fearne) and Principal Permanent Secretary (Mario Cutajar), was not traced.”

Regarding the second contract, given to Ciantar in 2019, the NAO said: “While the pertinent policy dictated that the duration of the contract of a Person of Trust shall be of  one year, renewable yearly, the wording on the contract of the officer in questions (Ciantar) was not deemed to be in line with the requirements of  the governing policy.”

The NAO also found irregularities when it came to the payment of Ciantar’s performance bonus.

While, according to the contract, Ciantar’s performance was to be assessed by the FMS board and the minister, the NAO found that “the payment of the performance bonus made to the officer concerned in February 2020 was only endorsed by the FMS president.”

The NAO added that although Board approval indicated that the performance bonus percentages were as recommended by Minister Fearne, “documentation showing the specific recommendations in support of this approval was not available, thus, the respective payment could not be validated.”

An old Labour militant

Ciantar has a long history of political activism within the Labour Party and served in a number of committees, the most recent being ‘Nisa Laburisti’ (Labour women).

Formerly married to former PN MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who turned Labour prior to the 2013 elections, Ciantar was immediately put at the helm of ARMS Ltd – at the time led by Fearne’s district rival, disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi.

Prior to the 2017 elections, Ciantar joined Fearne’s bandwagon, first helping his 2017 re-election to parliament, beating Mizzi on the number of first count votes, and then leading his personal drives – first to become deputy leader replacing Louis Grech and then in the leadership contest, which he unexpectedly lost to Robert Abela who had Joseph Muscat’s backing.

The Shift is reliably informed from multiple sources that despite her demanding job at the FMS, Ciantar is still one of Fearne’s main electoral campaign team members for the upcoming elections.

She was also appointed governor of the Malta Gaming Authority, for which she is paid another honorarium.

                           
                               
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Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
6 days ago

To date I was believing that 3 Ministers/ PL MPs made the grade of not being corrupt and on the gravy train, one of whom was Fearne. Number now reduced to 2. What a disappointment – to put it mildly – for one who had believed the 2013 mantra of good governance, accountability and transparency.

Last edited 6 days ago by Paul Bonello
John Cutajar
John Cutajar
6 days ago

Maybe the Minister is funding his electoral campaign tbrough this irregular contract. Hope I am wrong.

John
John
5 days ago
Reply to  John Cutajar

You might be very right, Sir.

D. Borg
D. Borg
5 days ago
Reply to  John Cutajar

Bull’s eye

carlo
6 days ago

What do you expect from one who have supported CORRUPTION.

Shame on you fearne, that you were less corrupt than you lot at the muvument KORROTT. – I was mistaken.

Simon Oosterman
Simon Oosterman
6 days ago

Fearne must have thought if you can’t beat them, join them, as Bartolo has done as well.

carmelo borg
6 days ago

Ghara vera minghajr maskla Fearne. İmissek tisthi meta hemm specjalment fid distrett tieghek hemm hafna familji b income baxx . Meta tmur taghmel il house visits tghidilhom b dawn l affarijiet tant MOQZİEZA. SHAME. Ghara mort il bahar gbin

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
6 days ago

What sort of idiot health minister thinks it’s OK to give one of the top people in the national health service a private health insurance package? That alone should be a firing office, and a headline in most newspapers.

Rachel Darmanin
Rachel Darmanin
6 days ago

Makes you wonder if FMS is another goverment shady structure to appease the chosen few.

carlo
4 days ago

Povru haddiem onest li jisirqulek dak li hdimt ghalih .
Min jahdem bl-onesta nipersigaw u min jisraq nippremjah.
Kif qatt jista jkun li dan il’pajjiz MAFFJUZ jimxi l-quddiem B’DIN IL-KORRUZZJONI.

John holiday
John holiday
2 days ago

No wonder this obscene contract was kept secret. Fearne knows that it is just another episode of corruption by this government!

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