Konrad Mizzi’s right-hand man, Ronald Mizzi, turned 40 yesterday. Happy Birthday. Congratulations are due. Despite his young age, Ronald achieved great things, thanks to his close association with the notorious Konrad.
From giving away half the country’s health service to a dodgy gang of squabbling businessmen to being director of the sinking Air Malta while still Konrad’s top civil servant, Ronald’s been there.
For having proven his steadfastness against annoying NAO inquiries and for unfailing loyalty to his disgraced boss, Ronald receives his 40th birthday present. Ronald, who oversaw the multiple calamities of Vitals, Electrogas, SOCAR, ITS, Mozura and more, is now responsible for millions of EU funds. He’s now Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economy, European Funds and Lands – whole new pastures in which to wreak more havoc.
A 22-year-old Ronald joined the civil service as Economics Officer in rural development despite lacking the necessary qualifications. After nine years, he climbed to Projects Manager.
In 2013, Ronald’s world changed. The sun rose. His meteoric rise began. He was elevated to Director of EU Affairs in Konrad’s first ministry – energy and water conservation. Within the year he was top dog – Konrad’s own permanent secretary – at the tender age of 31.
Konrad would change ministry three times over seven years. Ronald stuck with him.
Ronald went beyond his call of duty to protect Konrad. The Guardian sent Electrogas pointed questions on Konrad’s dodgy deals with SOCAR based on leaks Daphne Caruana Galizia had received before she was assassinated. Turab Musayev, of Mozura notoriety, wrote in a panic “Can you please check whether any of the factual information below is not in public knowledge Yorgen, and if.. whether Electrogas should reply?”.
Just two minutes later, Franz Dorfler from Electrogas reassured the rest: “I have just got a call from the secretary of Ronald Mizzi – we will receive a proposal (on) how to answer from (the) government of Malta. I will distribute it then”. Thank God for Ronald.
By then the Attorney General submitted reference terms to guide the NAO in investigating the filthy Vitals deal. As the NAO delved deeper, Ronald’s fingerprints were all over.
The first shocking revelation was that no ministerial authorisation was sought or provided for three hospitals to be conceded. No minister assumed responsibility to farm out half the health service. But Ronald went ahead.
He bragged in the 2015 ministry annual report that “through the assistance provided by the Office of the PS, Projects Malta published a Request for Proposals (RfP) and finalised negotiations relating to the concession of the three hospitals”.
When the NAO asked what triggered the concession, Ronald referred to a so-called “report by experts”. The problem was the report was not dated. Ronald claimed it was conducted in early 2015, days before the RfP. The NAO insisted on seeing correspondence but Ronald “did not make correspondence available”.
He maintained that all communication with the ‘experts’ was verbal – “a dubious assertion in the NAO’s opinion”. That was putting it mildly. A report of such strategic importance wasn’t even formally commissioned. Ronald claimed there were no formal letters of appointment. He provided no evidence to show when the experts convened or when they submitted the report, “casting doubt on the integrity of information provided to this office”.
He claimed the experts never exchanged correspondence during the report’s compilation. Everything was done verbally, according to Ronald. The NAO didn’t believe him. “The office maintains an element of reservation in this regard, particularly when one considers all the other shortcomings”.
The report was crap. No health officials were consulted, no independent analysis was evident and it was “completely bereft of critical thought”.
Yet Ronald went ahead and issued appointment letters for the evaluation committee tasked with ‘selecting’ the preferred bidder. The Chair was CEO of the FMS. The only two members were Manuel Castagna, partner with Nexia BT which set up Konrad Mizzi’s Panama structures and Robert Borg, the GWU financial controller.
The secretary to the committee was Konrad’s personal lawyer, Aron Mifsud Bonnici. Mifsud Bonnici and Borg set up District One Ltd, the minority shareholder in the GWU company that runs the lucrative jobless scheme. Ronald knew who these people were. He was surely aware of their proximity to his boss and the serious conflict of interest. Yet Ronald dutifully issued appointment letters.
When asked how members were selected, Ronald replied: “each member was selected on the basis of his expertise”.
The NAO said in its report that it couldn’t determine when VGH negotiations were concluded. Projects Malta published the government’s intention to award VGH the concession on 9 September 2015. Yet on 14 October, four main contracts were still being negotiated. When Ronald was asked for minutes, he bizarrely replied that no minutes were taken at these crucial meetings. If no minutes were kept, his own basic competence as PS is called into serious question. If they were, he must have perjured himself.
The NAO questioned the due diligence applied. It “was made up of different components”, Ronald claimed. The NAO wasn’t impressed. His reply “lacked sufficient detail and the due diligence was limited to what was stated by VGH themselves”. Ronald failed to submit any documentation. The measures he cited “were deemed insufficient and not to the required standard”.
The NAO found Ronald guilty. “The failure in governance rests squarely on the minister and to a lesser extent the permanent secretary”.
Ronald was clearly evasive, secretive, untruthful, deceptive and obstructive. He wasn’t serving the State. He was nefariously covering up for Konrad, Labour’s leadership and himself.
Instead of being subjected to disciplinary action, suspension or dismissal, Ronald was rewarded. The NAO’s damning indictment should trigger a criminal investigation for obstruction, dereliction of duty and possible perjury. Instead, on 8 May 2019, Konrad appointed Ronald to Air Malta’s board of directors. Ronald’s now a top civil servant responsible for the economy, EU funds and lands.