Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, already under intense pressure to explain his efforts to bypass stringent Cabinet rules by placing his girlfriend on the books of another Cabinet colleague, is in for more scrutiny by the Standards Commissioner as more evidence emerges of his erring conduct.
A video of a birthday bash inside Bartolo’s ministerial office in Valletta last June (see video below), clearly shows his girlfriend and private secretary, Amanda Muscat, organising her boyfriend’s ‘surprise party’ while she was supposed to be working at the Gozo Ministry in Victoria.
The video, professionally produced, is dated 2 June 2021, and shows how the 34-year-old Mellieha MP was led to his office inside ‘his’ ministry by TV personality Ron Briffa, to be greeted by members of his staff with confetti and loud music while his office was turned inti a mini-Manchester United football pitch.
The video clearly shows Amanda Muscat inside the minister’s office, directing all those taking part in her boyfriend’s surprise. It also shows the minister playing football inside his office while Eurovision star Destiny is brought in from another room singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the minister (see video below).
Tourism Ministry sources confirmed to The Shift that the idea of organising this ‘surprise’ came directly from Muscat, who organised the event during her time at work.
On the day of the birthday bash, Muscat, who according to government records already published by The Shift, was supposed to be working inside the private secretariat of Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, was present inside her boyfriend’s ministry since early in the morning to set up the minister’s party.
The Shift has already revealed that Muscat, who Bartolo immediately put on his private secretariat personnel as soon as he was appointed parliamentary secretary in 2020, was discovered to be in an extramarital relationship with his private secretary, during an embarrassing incident at the ministry, which became known to all his Cabinet colleagues, including the prime minister.
While Bartolo kept his partner in his private secretariat, he arranged for her to be listed on the records of the Gozo Ministry to avoid the same scandal that hit former education minister Justyne Caruana and Daniel Bogdanovic.
Bartolo’s arrangement with Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri was only a ‘book transfer’ as Muscat never attended the Gozo Ministry and kept providing her services to Bartolo both at the tourism ministry and also at his constituency office, sources at the Gozo Ministry confirmed.
While Minister Bartolo has so far declined to explain his conduct, Prime Minister Robert Abela tried to close the issue as soon as possible by declaring to the press that the “subject was closed” soon after The Shift revealed its findings.
Both the prime minister and Minister Bartolo – one of the few Labour MPs who supported Abela’s leadership campaign – have so far refused to state where he minister’s girlfriend is actually working. Internal government records related to her employment were deleted as The Shift exposed the fictitious transfer.
The Governor of the Central Bank (CBM) and former finance minister Edward Scicluna, also tried to shield the tourism minister from further embarrassment, declaring that he could not divulge any information on staff at the bank, following questions by The Shift about her secondment to the ministry from the bank.
The Shift revealed that before joining Bartolo, Muscat was a clerk at the Central Bank and was later given accelerated promotions to serve as an assistant to one of the bank’s Deputy Governors in the grade of a supervisor.
CBM sources told The Shift that, so far, Muscat has not returned to her Bank job while Scicluna is refusing to say whether the minister’s girlfriend is still on the bank’s books.
Following The Shift’s revelations, independent candidate Arnold Cassola filed an official request for an investigation by the Standards Commissioner.
The tourism minister did not reply to questions on who financed his expensive surprise party inside his office, which included Manchester United memorabilia, fees for Malta’s top singer Destiny and TV presenter Ron Briffa and the filming and production of a commemorative video.
Just a short time after this birthday bash, the minister, accompanied by his girlfriend and staff from his private secretariat, were treated to another ‘celebration’ inside the VIP area of Old Trafford – Manchester United’s football ground.
The tourism ministry has a multi-million sponsorship agreement with the UK Premier League football club, details of which were never published by the government.