Tens of thousands of euro in public funds earmarked to create awareness on problems related to gambling are being directed to organisations in the district of Economy Minister Silvio Schembri.
The funds are administered by the Responsible Gaming Foundation (RGF), a government entity under the control of Minister Schembri, and are being distributed by the minister himself at ceremonies attended by members of organisations benefitting from those funds, mostly potential voters in Schembri’s own constituency.
Out of the seven most recent ‘donations’ dished out by the RGF, The Shift can reveal that all seven organisations happen to be located in Schembri’s constituency. Most of this funding has gone to sports associations.
The flashy ceremonies are photographed and promoted on social media, and include images of Schembri giving RGF cheques to the Qormi Hockey Club, the Qormi Darts Team, and a youth nursery in the same locality.
Schembri has also distributed RGF funds to the Siggiewi football club to organise a family day, to the scouts of Zebbug to purchase kayaks, to Rabat Ajax football club to buy technical equipment and to the Mtarfa youth nursery to buy equipment.
During all these cheque giving events, Schembri made a speech and the presidents of the organisations showered praise on the minister for his ‘generosity’ in helping local associations.
Questions sent by The Shift to Schembri appointee Kevin O’Neill, the CEO of the public foundation, were not answered.
O’Neill, who originally worked for the Malta Gaming Authority, was asked to provide a list of all donations made by the RGF under his tenure, and to state who decides which organisations are to be given funds, and according to which criteria.
The Shift is informed that this clear abuse of public funds by Minister Schembri to boost his chances of re-election has irritated several Labour candidates campaigning in the same district, and they have informally asked Prime Minister Robert Abela to intervene.
Sources close to Minister Ian Borg and Qormi candidate Rosianne Cutajar said both candidates have protested to the Office of the Prime Minister, but no action has been taken to rein Schembri in.