Government slammed for allowing gross conflict of interest at MCAST

An inquiry concluded in 2019 and made public by The Shift last week slammed the government for allowing the former president of MCAST, Silvio De Bono, to retain his position for over five years while conducting a private business that was in clear and direct conflict with his public role.

Further investigations by The Shift show that the former president’s private educational facility, known as IDEA Academy and situated in Mosta, is now being led by Vince Maione, until a few months ago the vice-principal of MCAST and De Bono’s close collaborator.

A licence for IDEA Academy issued in 2014.

The inquiry, led by financial expert Paul Bonello, found that while Silvio De Bono was appointed President of the Board of Governors of MCAST in 2013, just a few weeks after Labour’s return to power, then Minister Education Minister Evarist Bartolo recommended his re-appointment at least twice, even though it was common knowledge that De Bono was competing with MCAST through his private business and had a clear conflict of interest.

Despite the fact that Silvio De Bono was given a licence to operate his private educational academy in 2014 (shortly after his appointment at MCAST), he only formally informed Minister Bartolo about a potential conflict of interest five years later, in May 2018.

“The Board opines that De Bono, in a situation where he was occupying the same position in two separate institutions, a public one and his private business, and which offer the same competing courses, had a serious actual, continuous and grave conflict of interest”, the board concluded.

While the board stated that De Bono clearly breached the law regulating MCAST, it made it clear that the former President was obliged to inform the Minister about his conflict “immediately”.

The board reports that De Bono “apparently took it badly” when he was finally asked to resign by Minister Bartolo.

Putting the blame for this gross irregularity onto the government, the board said that no due diligence had been done on De Bono’s dual and conflicting role before his appointment and renewals.

An excerpt of the inquiry’s conclusions on former MCAST President Silvio De Bono.

The Shift is informed that De Bono’s close relationship with Evarist Bartolo goes back a long way, and it was not true that the former minister was not aware of De Bono’s conflict of interest.

“Evarist Bartolo and Silvio De Bono knew each other intimately as both used to work together as journalists in the same newsroom at Television Malta in the 80s,” an MCAST source said.

“Also, before Labour was elected to power, De Bono had become a regular ‘commentator’ on the Labour media, criticising the then PN administration on various counts. At the time, Bartolo was heading the Labour media,” the sources explained.

“His appointment at MCAST was directly made on Bartolo’s recommendation – a sort of gift for De Bono’s contribution to Labour,” the same sources added.

The inquiry criticised De Bono’s style of management during his long years at MCAST, finding that despite having no executive role, he was taking decisions sidelining then Principal Stephen Cachia.

Admitting that he was bothered by De Bono’s “intrusion”, Cachia told the inquiry that certain departments under his wing, particularly those related to finances and HR used to report directly to De Bono and not to him.

The damning MCAST report shows how the tertiary institution has been run unprofessionally for a number of years, with dozens of lecturers recruited on political recommendations, including from the Office of the Prime Minister. This also included the recruitment of current Principal James Calleja, the inquiry was told by senior MCAST officials.

It also found fraud and alteration of examination marks in an “endemic toxic system” on official documents used during recruitment interviews to benefit those recommended for recruitment.

The report was passed onto the police for investigations of a criminal nature three years ago. No action has been taken so far.

                           
                               
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carmelo borg
23 days ago

İl kummisarju Gafa ma jhares lejn wicc hadd ( lanqas min jaghmel il hazin). Lanqas jaf x qiet jigri mad dwaru. Nahseb dahal mas sorijiet tal klawsura maqtuh mid dinja.

viv
viv
23 days ago

The hackneyed phrase “Throw The Book At Them” of course comes to mind immediately.
But those charged with the act of throwing cannot find the book, which stems from the fact that they have absolutely no idea what the bloody book looks like.

Unbelievable wickedness from bottom to top.
Since the present Maltese judicial system is entirely broken I would suggest defaulting to previous forms of punishment.

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