Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Chris Bonett, who until a few years ago was a member of UEFA’s ethics committee, has taken his family for a short weekend break to Sicily.
But instead of using his personal car to travel abroad, he decided to instead use his official government-leased BMW for what was a private holiday and not official government business.
The Shift is reliably informed that Bonett, one of the newest members of Robert Abela’s Cabinet, took the car to Sicily, together with his wife and two children, guzzling fuel along the way, for which taxpayers have most likely paid.
It is unclear whether the ministerial car’s ferry fare was also paid for by the state.
Pictures sent to The Shift by readers show Bonett’s ministerial car, in discreet mode without its GM (Government of Malta) number plates, queuing in Pozzallo last Monday while waiting for the catamaran to return to back to Malta.
Bonett and his family were inside the car, with the junior minister behind the wheel.
Upon their appointment, Cabinet members are given an official car and a driver that are to be used for official duties. Until a few years ago, they were not supposed to use their official cars for private purposes, although these rules have been ignored by members of both Labour and Nationalist Cabinets.
But this is the first time a Cabinet member has been seen using his official ministerial car to travel abroad on a family holiday. It is not yet known whether this was in line with Cabinet rules or, otherwise, who authorised Bonett to take a family holiday with the government footing at least part of the bill.
Questions sent to the Parliamentary Secretary asking whether he felt is was ethical to use publicly-funded resources to take his family on holiday were not replied to.
The Shift also asked Bonett to declare who paid for the vehicle’s fuel while abroad on holiday and for the ministerial car’s catamaran tickets.
Bonnet, who, before entering the political fray, was an employee at the Malta Football Association (MFA) and later at UEFA, returned to Malta after a short stint in Geneva as a member of the European football association’s ethics committee.
He was given various lucrative government contracts on a position of trust basis, and he unsuccessfully contested the MFA’s presidency and lost out to Bjorn Vassallo even though Bonett had been supported by the Labour administration, including disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and then-MP Robert Abela.
While serving as SportMalta chief executive officer, Bonnet had overseen a record of direct orders worth a total of close to €14 million that were awarded for the construction of a new government shooting range in Ta’ Kandja, which is now already in ruins.
Bonett recently took issue with tongue-in-cheek comments made by the Opposition over his declaration of assets in which he stated that he owns no property, not even his own residence.
Reacting to a number of sarcastic political comments – such as questions about whether he was receiving social accommodation benefits – Bonnet took to social media to lambast his critics over their “insensitivity towards the homeless or those who cannot afford to buy their home”.
Boasting about his humble background from a working-class family, he declared he lives in a rented apartment in Marsascala since his circumstances “did not permit me yet to buy a home for my family”.
It is not yet known whether Prime Minster Abela will be taking issue with Bonnet over a possible breach of ethics by using his ministerial car for a holiday. According to the code of ethics, “Once Ministers administer public property, on behalf of the public in general, they shall exercise the highest level of diligence including in the expenditure of public funds, and they shall also work diligently and hard in the performance of their duties.”