Labour pollster Vince Marmara has been kept on retainer at the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) for the past seven years, receiving €4,251 every month from taxpayer funds.
A full-time senior lecturer at the University of Malta, Marmara made a name for himself conducting and publishing regular political polls on the General Workers’ Union’s (GWU) weekly it-Torca.
While the cash-strapped GWU newspaper – an unofficial weekly of the Labour Party – never revealed if and how much it pays for these normally expensive monthly polls, Marmara continues to invoice the MGA for unspecified ‘research and consultancy services’.
The Shift is informed that his first 12-month contract dates back to October 2014 and was signed by disgraced former CEO Joseph Cuschieri. It has since been renewed six times by direct order, in breach of public procurement rules that require a competitive tender to be issued. It’s not known why the MGA has given so many direct orders to Marmara, rather than hire a full-time professional or statistician’s service at a lower rate.
The Shift is informed that the monthly payment to Marmara is ongoing, amounting to a total of €370,000 so far, for services he provides on a part-time basis.
According to his original contract, seen by The Shift, invoices submitted by Marmara must list the major tasks he worked on during the previous month. This clause is being ignored, and the MGA is being sent general monthly invoices that do not list any specific work completed for the authority.
The MGA is also in breach of contract for not insisting on the need for detailed invoices, but it continues to pay Marmara for unspecified services.
Asked to explain what work Marmara is doing for the MGA, and to provide the reason for hiring him on repeated direct orders without any form of competition, the MGA CEO Carl Brincat refused to reply. Brincat also refused to explain why he continues to approve monthly payments to the Labour pollster when Marmara’s invoices breach the conditions of the contract.
MGA Chairman Ryan Pace, a young lawyer who worked with the private legal firm of Prime Minister Robert Abela before being appointed to the gaming regulator, also failed to provide an explanation.
Marmara’s name comes up regularly on the lists of direct order published by the government. His services were also used by the Office of the President for the organisation of a conference on national unity. His partner in that initiative was former PN communication strategist Lou Bondi.