Edward Montebello, news editor of Labour’s TV station, has been heading a government agency set up to perform maintenance work in various tourism zones around the country even as he concurrently continued to direct operations within the ONE TV newsroom, according to tourism ministry officials.
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo hired Montebello to lead of the Foundation for Tourism Zone Development – a fully public funded agency which employs public officials and manages taxpayers’ money – in May 2021, a role he retained at least up to the elections last month.
Montebello, accredited as a journalist by the Department of Information, appears to have put aside conflict of interest concerns when he accepted this government appointment while keeping his full-time job at the PL headquarters leading the ONE News newsroom and presenting ‘discussion’ programmes on the same channel.
Montebello’s public appointment meant he was pocketing an extra €1,000 a month from state coffers to boost the financial remuneration he gets for his job at the PL headquarters.
According to standard government rules, all political appointees must resign their posts once a new government is elected. It is not yet known whether Montebello has been reconfirmed in his public role by the tourism minister. However, he is still news editor at ONE TV.
Tourism ministry officials who spoke to The Shift said that apart from the scandalous appointment of “having the editor of Labour’s propaganda machine also managing a public entity,” Montebello’s contribution to the Foundation is “very limited”.
“So far, Montebello was already paid some €10,000 of public funds for his role even though there is little to show for his input,” the sources said.
The Shift was also informed that Minister Clayton Bartolo has been using the Foundation as another government entity used to curry favour in his electoral efforts.
“The Foundation has been stuffed with many people, mostly from Bartolo’s district and incidentally most of the so-called maintenance work is done in St Paul’s Bay and Mellieha, the minister’s district.”
According to the last set of accounts published by the foundation, going back to 2019, the agency’s greatest expenses were €250,000 in wages and another €110,000 in undescribed “staff expenses”.
Clayton Bartolo was reconfirmed as tourism minister by Robert Abela after the last elections, despite the various scandals involving the Mellieha-based minister.
In February, The Shift reported that to bypass ethical rules and the cabinet’s code of conduct, Bartolo had employed his girlfriend at the secretariat of the Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri although she continued working alongside him at his ministerial office in Valletta. Bartolo was also associated with mismanagement of MTA funds particularly on sponsorships and events led by Lionel Gerada, an MTA director with a criminal record.
Soon after The Shift’s story broke, the prime minister announced that Amanda Muscat had been removed from her job at the Gozo ministry.