The Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) is refusing to divulge details of a new job created specifically for Frank Fabri, who was just a few months ago embroiled in a major scandal and resigned in disgrace from his role as Education Ministry Permanent Secretary.
Last September, Fabri was directly recruited as the new general manager of the so-called ITS Training Institute – a new branch of the ITS for re-training people employed for the tourism sector.
The move was made without a call and through the approval of Prime Minster Robert Abela, who signed a specific procedure, referred to as ‘detailing’, so Fabri could be seconded from the public service to his new job at the government agency.
But while Fabri was given new working conditions, including a better financial package than what he had as permanent secretary, ITS is now refusing to divulge his contract.
Turning down a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Shift, ITS gave no reason why it could make Fabri’s conditions available to this newsroom.
ITS only confirmed that, despite his new role at the institute, Fabri is still on the books of the public service and can return to his former grade whenever he chooses to do so.
ITS, chaired by Edward Zammit under the guidance of Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, also turned down a request for the contract of the current CEO, Pierre Fenech, a close friend of the minister who is also the CEO of the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
It is so far not known whether Fenech is receiving two separate government salaries for his dual role. Fenech was outed last year by The Shift for giving a direct order to architect Gilbert Bartolo, the brother of minister Clayton Bartolo. Fenech has told The Shift he didn’t know the recipient of the direct order was the minister’s brother.
The Shift is informed that although the government gave the impression that Fabri had left the public service last January when he resigned, this was not the case.
Despite having been found breaching ethics and possibly committing criminal acts together with then-education minister Justyne Caruana for approving an illegal contract to employ the minister’s boyfriend, he still retained his public service job.
“Frank Fabri did not really resign. He was removed from his role as permanent secretary but still retained his grade at Scale 2, with a basic salary of over €45,000,” sources at the Education Ministry told The Shift.
“What happened after he resigned was that he spent months receiving his pay without doing anything except for knocking on ministerial doors trying to find a new role,” sources added.
While Fabri was advised to lie low until the March election, as his role in the Justyne Caruana scandal was seen as reflecting negatively on the government, his efforts were eventually rewarded with the new ITS role.
When he stepped down in January 2021, the then Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar publicly stated that Fabri was put under investigation while the police were also asked to look into his actions for possible criminal offences.
However, nothing has happened since then and the police failed to press any charges.
This was not the first time that Fabri, a former Labour Party mayor, was let off the hook.
In 2019, a court acquitted a cleaning contractor accused of corrupting Fabri when he was mayor of Rabat.
The contractor, John Borg, said under oath that he used to pay Fabri €345 a month in connection with a cleaning contract and that the contract stopped when he refused to keep paying Fabri, who was asking for more.
While the contractor was acquitted on technical grounds, the police never charged Fabri with corruption.
Confirming that Fabri had been investigated over the 2006 claims, the police charges had not been pressed against the former mayor because “the main witnesses against him were undergoing criminal charges in court”.
But following the conclusion of the case, Fabri was still never charged with receiving the alleged bribes. During that court case, Fabri had chosen to not reply to questions in order to not incriminate himself.