Minister Ian Borg’s right-hand man Jesmond Zammit, who has been embroiled in several embarrassing scandals involving the minister in recent years, has now been put on the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s payroll even though he has no knowledge or experience in diplomacy.
His appointment is ruffling feathers at the Foreign Ministry, with Zammit reportedly ordering seasoned career diplomats around on the minister’s instructions and with the Prime Minister approving a special bonus for Borg’s ‘fixer’.
That bonus saw his annual pay increase by some €20,000 through a so-called ‘expertise allowance’ generally reserved for consultants with ample qualifications and expertise in the ministry’s specific portfolio.
Senior diplomats told The Shift that Zammit is rarely seen at the office and instead influences the foreign office’s work through regular phone calls to its top officials.
One such diplomat told The Shift, “We are informed that the Prime Minister was not very happy with Zammit’s continuous close relationship with the Minister. But while giving the impression to the media that he is in control, Abela still allowed Borg to give Zammit yet another job as his adviser in an area in which he doesn’t have a clue.”
According to Zammit’s new contract, seen by The Shift, the Minister’s friend was put on the foreign office’s payroll the same day that Borg was given his new portfolio.
His contract was only signed on 10 May because of initial objections from the Office of the Prime Minister since Zammit was not considered fit and proper to advise the Foreign Ministry. Yet Prime Minister Robert Abela was constrained to give in to Borg’s demands.
In fact, Zammit’s new contract was made retroactive to 4 April, the day Ian Borg first set foot in Palazzo Parisio, which hosts the Foreign Ministry.
“Once again, despite the Prime Minister trying to clip Ian Borg’s wings, by demoting him to the foreign ministry and far removed from large tenders, he still got his way. It seems Borg cannot function without his fixer,” a senior official told The Shift.
Conscious that Zammit has no idea when it comes to diplomacy, his contract was attached to an insignificant part of Minister Borg’s portfolio, that of trade – a remit it shares with other ministries and which has no tangible output.
According to his contract, Zammit’s new job is to “maintain close liaison and provide consultancy to Minister Borg on trade and ensure that the Minister is adequately informed of emerging difficulties and opportunities within the trade areas which fall under Minister Borg’s portfolio.”
Apart from a basic salary of €41,000, Zammit was also given an additional €20,000 expertise allowance, an expense allowance of €2,000, a €4,659 transport allowance and a mobile allowance of €815 a year – in all amounting to €68,441 yearly salary.
Zammit and the Minister go back a long time and he was Borg’s chief of staff in 2013 when he was first made parliamentary secretary.
During his association with Borg, Zammit was at the centre of scandals, including a €70,000-a-year direct order given to his daughter Adreana by Transport Malta, when she was still a student; the police’s early release from arrest of Gozitan footballer Daniel Bogdanovic so he could play a match for a team Zammit coaches; and, more recently, in the Transport Malta driving tests scandal.
In its latest revelations, The Shift reported how Zammit keeps close contact with Glorianne Micallef Portelli, Ian Borg’s Head of Customer Care. Compromising messages from the latter’s mobile number, which is paid for by the foreign office, were found on the phone of Clint Mansueto – a senior Transport Malta official accused of corruption in the ongoing driving tests scandal.
Mansueto had told the police he felt obliged to recommend that certain candidates pass their tests since some of them were working at a Minister’s villa.
Ian Borg completely denies any association with the Transport Malta scandal and any of the transgressions of his advisor Jesmond Zammit.