A prominent member of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s private secretariat used to handle the names forwarded by different ministers to Transport Malta officials involved in the drivers’ licences scandal currently before the court, insiders have told The Shift.
The prime minister has ‘categorically denied’ the Labour Party was involved in the alleged racket. Yet contrary to the impression given by Robert Abela, Transport Malta officials told The Shift: “The prime minister’s private secretary must have given him a lot of information about what was going on at Transport Malta.”
Abela’s private secretary, Rachel Debono, was Transport Malta chairman’s personal assistant until a few months ago when the prime minister handpicked her as his private secretary at Castille.
Debono, a party activist from Mellieħa, joined the transport regulator when it was being run by former Labour Party CEO James Piscopo.
She was described by Transport Malta officials as “the most trusted official of the powers that be” who handles all important matters related to the governing Labour Party.
“If the prime minister is not informed of what was, and is still, going on at Transport Malta, which no one really believes, all he has to do is to ask his personal secretary. She is very aware of what was happening with the names and diaries,” one official said.
The Shift is also informed that Debono used to handle names and pass them on to colleagues without involving herself directly in any type of corruption.
Transport Malta created a well-oiled system, mostly involving top officials recruited by Minister Ian Borg during his time as transport minister.
It seems ‘customer care’ instructions for Transport Malta’s top officials – whether about jobs, promotions, procurement or other ‘requirements’ – were passed on directly from the transport ministry through Minister Borg’s chief advisor Jesmond Zammit.
Zammit is already involved in a number of scandals, including the recruitment at Transport Malta of his own daughter, Adreana, when she was still a law student. At the time, Ian Borg had said he had nothing to do it.
Sources said those at Transport Malta usually spoken to were Donald Gouder – a ‘canvasser’ for Ian Borg from Mġarr and a close friend of Zammit, who was recruited as TM’s chief human resources officer – and Kevin Farrugia, another ‘canvasser’ for the same minister who was recruited as deputy CEO at TM without a public call.
Clint Mansueto, a TM director facing accusations of corruption over the driver’s licence racket, used to receive instructions from Gouder, according to insiders.
It has already emerged in court that Gouder had obtained information for Mansueto that gave him an advantage during his exam for the post of Transport Malta director, where he fared better than more qualified candidates.
Gouder and Jesmond Zammit, the minister’s advisor, are known to be close friends outside office hours, and both are officials at the same football team, Qrendi FC – one as its coach and the other as team manager.
The police this week told the court that Gouder is also expected to be arraigned in court about the TM corruption scandal.
According to evidence presented in court, Mansueto used to tell examiners who should be given a push to pass driving tests. Mansueto told the court he felt obliged to do so with four candidates who were working at a “minister’s villa”.
Court evidence also revealed that Mansueto kept a diary with some 200 names of those who were helped to pass their exams. These include a ‘Francesco’ – a reporter at Labour’s One TV, and messages from the “aunt of a minister”.
According to the police, instructions were also coming in from “a political party”, which they did not name even though their investigation covered the years under a Labour administration. The Party has been in power since 2013.
More information is expected to be revealed in court in the coming days.