Minister Miriam Dalli has already put eight of her most trusted canvassers on the government payroll with consultancy contracts that are setting taxpayers back some €400,000 – or €2 million over the five-year legislature.
Dalli is also in direct breach of Office of the Prime Minister guidelines that specify every ministry is entitled to just four consultants as persons of trust, with an additional two in the cases when a minister has a parliamentary secretary.
While Dalli has no parliamentary secretary attached to her ministry, she is still being allowed to engage eight consultants, raising the ire of and complaints of discrimination from other ministers – particularly those who contest the same electoral districts as Dalli.
Dalli, who spent years as the Labour Party’s chief reporter at ONE News, is one of the most media-savvy politicians in Prime Minister Robert Abela’s Cabinet.
Three of Dalli’s canvassers – Steve Ellul, Olaf McKay and Abigail Cutajar – are being paid some €70,000 each.
All three are also being paid an additional €20,000 expertise allowance, although the rules specify that this latter payment is to be given under only exceptional circumstances and with the approval of the Office of the Prime Minister.
Steve Ellul, who fills in as a financial analyst guest on PBS every time a need to boost the government’s economic credentials presents itself, was recruited on a full-time basis. In addition to his €70,000 salary, he also works as a part-time University of Malta lecturer. He is a former Bank of Valletta employee and is known to harbour political ambitions that might put him in direct conflict with his minister in the future.
Olaf McKay, who lives in Dalli’s main constituency of Birzebbuga, has been canvassing for Dalli since her MEP days. He has also been placed on a €70,000 salary. During working hours, McKay constantly promotes the minister on social media while tending to the winding up of his business, Komb Ltd, which he owns with Kearon Bruno – a canvasser and consultant for Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo.
Another Dalli canvasser, Abigail Cutajar, who has been entrusted with coordinating the Pininfarina project – a dubious, large project earmarked for Birzebbuga that had been announced just a few days before the last general elections – was also given a €70,000 contract for unspecified duties. She is also seen constantly promoting the minister and says she decided not to leave Malta because of Dalli’s offer to work with her.
The Shift has already revealed that Katrina Cuschieri, President George Vella’s granddaughter, had been made a consultant for Dalli just a week after returning to Malta from her year of studies in the UK. Cuschieri’s father, Joseph, who resigned in disgrace from his post as MFSA CEO, employed Dalli at Vodafone a few years ago.
Dalli has also put a number of other consultants on the state payroll.
These include Maria Aquilina, who is paid €20,000 a year for 10-hour weeks, Andrea Bellia (€41,000), Kristy Bartolo (€48,000) and Maria Sara Vella Gafa, Labour’s Gudja mayor, who is paid €43,000 a year for 30-hour weeks.
These consultants all come over and above Dalli’s other canvassers, who have been placed on the state payroll either in her private secretariat or through contracts at the various government agencies under her remit.