The majority of funds allocated through the Social Causes Fund, which disburses money deriving from gaming taxes and unclaimed lottery prizes, were last year diverted to organisations in the electoral district where the unelected Finance Minister hopes to win a parliamentary seat.
An analysis by The Shift of the €900,000 in public grants distributed last year through the Social Causes Fund – better known as the National Lotteries Good Causes Fund – shows that some €250,000, amounting to 30% of all grants issued in 2021, were given to organisations in the second electoral district.
The Fund, which falls under the political clout of Clyde Caruana, dished out substantial funds to organisations such as band clubs and religious societies, usually frequented by many locals and considered essential for a budding politician to gain rapid popularity.
Information submitted to parliament shows that some €30,000 were given to the Fgura Feast Commission for the refurbishment of its premises, while the football club of the same locality was allocated a further €50,000 to upgrade the club’s pitch.
Zabbar, which also forms part of Caruana’s second district, was allocated €50,000 so that its Maria Mater Gratiæ band club can build a small theatre while the parish church of the same locality was awarded €15,000 to fund the restoration of its bells.
Other generous donations through Clyde Caruana’s Social Causes Fund included €2,500 for Bormla’s Fondazzjoni mid-Dlam għad-Dawl; €50,000 for the restoration of a bridge in Fort Rinella, Kalkara; €13,000 for the restoration of three paintings and the embellishment of a chapel in Senglea; €40,000 for the cultural society of Vittoriosa and €24,000 for the restoration of a crucifix in the Senglea basilica.
The only locality in the second district left out of the Social Causes Fund bonanza in the second district was Xghajra, the smallest locality.
While Caruana is not officially involved in the selection of projects allocated these grants, the fund is administered by a committee of three representatives appointed by the minister.
Currently, the fund is chaired by Mario Cutajar, the controversial head of the civil service who until a few years ago was also employed by one of the Labour candidates on the second district (Glenn Bedingfield), Jonathan Cardona, a close collaborator of disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Mark Farrugia, currently the publicly funded personal assistant to the former Labour leader.
During the years, the fund was frequently criticised for its lack of transparency and the subjective allocation of funds. It was also criticised by both the Labour and Nationalist parties for its use by incumbent ministers to curry favour with various organisations in their own constituency.
The fund is also used for outright donations, although to a lesser extent. In 2021, some €90,000 were allocated to the Malta Community Chest Fund, while the Senglea parish, also in the minister’s district, was given a €5,000 donation for undisclosed purposes.