The MCAST administration acted illegally, “wrongly” and “abusively” in suspending an employee for more than three years and four months after making allegations against MCAST’s operations and administration, according to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s 2022 Case Notes published this week.
The Commissioner for Education at the Office of the Ombudsman, Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent A. De Gaetano, was “struck by the rampant culture of impunity and clientelism prevalent at the College”.
The Commissioner also stated that during the investigation, he was met with “reluctance… to provide concrete, clear and timely information” by MCAST’s CEO James Calleja, and the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education, Frank Fabri.
The case stretches back to July 2018, when the unnamed employee was suspended from the college after being verbally accused of acting improperly within her role. In the same month, the employee complained about the operations and administration of the College, sparking an internal inquiry by the Education Ministry.
The decision to suspend the employee was taken by the college’s CEO, Professor Joachim James Calleja, who had occupied the role since the month prior, June 2018.
A week into her suspension, the employee was presented with 29 separate charges, which were rebuffed in a 159-page reply. Despite the charges, the MCAST administrative board never started any disciplinary proceedings, leaving the employee in limbo as to the status of her job. In the interest of retaining anonymity, the Commissioner specifies that the use of pronoun does not necessarily indicate gender.
The Education Ombudsman concluded that the College acted “unreasonably and oppressively” by “not proceeding with disciplinary action within a reasonable time” and by “wasting public funds”, paying the employee while “forcing her to remain home”, preventing her from contributing to the College.
MCAST claimed that its administrative board did not proceed with any disciplinary action in order not to interfere with an internal investigation which was started by the Education Ministry in July 2018. Evarist Bartolo, at the time the Minister for Education had commissioned an investigation into the operations and administration of MCAST, following allegations by the same employee.
The resulting report, published in 2019, which came to be known as the Bonello report after Paul Bonello, who was heading the board of inquiry which was looking into the allegations. The report spoke of an “endemic toxic system” within the College. It revealed serious malpractices, fraud and falsifications in recruitment procedures.
The ombudsman commissioner noted that the report painted a picture of a “rampant culture of impunity and clientelism” at the College, implicating people “at various levels in the administration and in the running of MCAST”.
Calleja, the MCAST CEO, claimed he did not have a copy of this report, while Fabri refused to hand over the report to the Ombudsman Education Commissioner “in clear and flagrant breach of Art. 19 of the Ombudsman Act”.
Calleja and Fabri were subject to a court prohibitory injunction in 2021 lambasting them for disobeying court orders to rescind the “vindictive” demotion of MCAST lecturer Peter Gatt. Calleja has also worked as a consultant for the Education Ministry, boosting his state-funded pay to almost €120,000 per year.
The MCAST administration has been named in a number of problematic cases over the past years, with the Police yet to take action on the conclusions of the damning inquiry report.
When will Robert Abela tell the Police Commissioner by when he should conclude his prosecution documents and take these to the courts?
Din xi smokescreen ohra Varist? Jew cara daqs il-kristall?
And what happened to the employee after all this?
The employee is not named in the Ombudsman’s report
Those who have no experience but keep quiet are rewarded, those who are annoying even with experience are turned away