Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, who appointed Sigmund Mifsud as CEO on a person of trust basis, was given details about the incidents of sexual harassment at the national orchestra weeks before any action was taken by the police, The Shift can reveal.
Bonnici was given the information during a meeting held with the victim herself, in which she detailed the way Sigmund Mifsud and other managers at the orchestra were mismanaging the government entity and even abusing staff, including sexual harassment.
Despite this meeting and the resulting notes taken by the minister passed on to his Permanent Secretary Joyce Dimech, action was only taken at the eleventh hour and only after The Shift reported the case on 23 October.
Three days before The Shift revealed the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) scandal, Minister Bonnici ignored questions sent to him and refused to give any comments on any action he had taken to address the criminal severe accusations, later confirmed in court.
Speaking to The Shift after he was sent a new set of questions, Minister Bonnici admitted that he was briefed by the victim during a meeting weeks before the claims were made public.
He insisted that he had taken immediate action, saying he sent an e-mail to the Commission Against Domestic Violence. It remains unclear why he did not inform the police immediately.
During his meeting with the victim, Minister Bonnici took notes and asked several questions about his person of trust (Sigmund Mifsud) whom he appointed CEO of the MPO.
The Shift is also informed that Bonnici passed all his notes to Joyce Dimech, his Permanent Secretary. Yet no concrete action appears to have been taken until The Shift made the case public.
Dimech, who was employed with the government in 1986, and handpicked as permanent secretary as soon as Labour was returned to power in 2013, is a well-connected Gozitan.
The 31-year-old MPO manager, whose name cannot be published by court order, admitted to the sexual harassment. He also happens to be a Gozitan close to both Joyce Dimech and Sigmund Mifsud.
MPO officials who spoke to The Shift claimed that during an MPO board meeting, in the presence of Chairman Alfred Camilleri (a former permanent secretary colleague of Dimech), Mifsud claimed that Dimech was handling the issue and had told him that she had everything under control.
The officials said that Camilleri became infuriated at the attempt to cover up the accusations.
Both the Gozitan Manager and the CEO have been arraigned in court. The manager admitted to the charges and was given a suspended sentence. Mifsud’s case is still ongoing.
Both have been suspended from their job but retained on the state’s payroll on half pay until an independent board, whose members have not been named, determines their future.