Festivals Malta CEO Annabelle Stivala has stepped down, The Shift is informed.
Stivala, a staunch Labour supporter known to be close to Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, has thrown in the towel after clashing with the agency’s new Chairman Aaron Zahra, a prominent member of Robert Abela’s private secretariat.
The agency is responsible for national events and is the source of millions of euros in irregular disbursements to Labour Party officials and contractors.
The Shift is informed that other members of the agency’s board have also notified the minister that they will be stepping down because of excessive interference in their daily work from the Office of the Prime Minister.
Inside sources speaking to The Shift said the agency has become an extension of the Labour Party headquarters. Zahra, they said, replaced veteran radio host and ambassador Norman Hamilton as part of an exercise to “clean out Joseph Muscat’s clan”.
One insider told The Shift, “A rift has now erupted between Labour’s old guard – including Albert Marshall, Jason Micallef, Annabelle Stivala, former One TV cameraman Jason Busuttil and others – and Robert Abela’s new clan.
“There is no way the two Labour factions could live together any longer.”
Zahra is the PM’s personal events manager and was appointed by Abela to head Festivals Malta last year.
Minister Owen Bonnici hosted a meeting at the ministry last week to try and reconcile the two factions. Bonnici’s efforts, however, were for nothing as Stivala insisted she would be resigning while other board members said they could not work with Robert Abela’s faction.
Annabelle Stivala, the daughter of late Zejtun mayor Joe Attard, is an Owen Bonnici canvasser and is believed to have been appointed CEO through the minister’s intervention.
It is an open secret that the Prime Minister has been critical of the way the agency was turned into a ‘Joseph Muscat club’, with the abuse of public funds and public procurement rules now the order of the day.
The Shift has already reported how the agency is being used to spend millions of euros in public funds on those who also organise Labour’s mass events, particularly during electoral campaigns.
These include The Events Company (TEC) of Charles Magro, Besteam Audio, events lighting company Nexos and Ray Vella Company Ltd, which provides large LED screens and projectors for Labour Party events.
Only last year, a publicly-funded stage supposedly built for the new ‘Muzika, Muzika’ Maltese song festival at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali, was left there to be used for Labour’s final electoral campaign events, as the agency postponed the festival at the last minute, seemingly to make way for Labour’s final mass meetings to be held at the venue.
The same tactic was employed by Johann Grech at the Malta Film Commission with his costly Malta Film Awards event.
An audit by the National Audit Office in December 2021 confirmed that Festivals Malta under Stivala and Hamilton had been turned “into a recruitment hub” for certain service providers through repeat direct orders.
The NAO slammed the agency’s management and found it completely ignored public procurement rules. It pointed to the fact that with a budget of €5 million it depended on around 30 individuals and entities that provide their services on a contractual basis.
Despite the damning findings, Minister Bonnici refrained from taking any action and instead continued to place his canvassers and district constituents on the agency’s books.
Just thinking…the pecking order of the pigs… or is it a teat order ?
Meta l lupu ma lahaqx l gheneb qal li hu qares.
MAFIAMALTA never a dull moment
One not so little piggy went to market, buying and selling the people’s property, The other big piggy stayed at home, buying and dealing in jewels, clothes, and charity and making hay whilst the sun shines.
The other big piggy not only eat the roast beef but all he saw in front of him Another piggy we thought had non, but then though he did not deserve it, was given another workplace with a better pay.
The other big piggy could not find his way home too dark, but suddenly he saw the light from heaven above .
The pigsty is becoming too small for all of these pigs .
The Muscat’s are fraudsters !
And the Abela faction continues where Joseph left off, and they are not just as bad, but worse.
Labour gives the nation what Labour always had – corruption and abuse of power.
30 years later, the names haven’t changed. The feasting is well organized.
Aaron x’livel ta’ edukazzjoni ghandek hi
apparti t tessera tal Lejber u li int leali lejn il 💩.
FingerS in the pudding!!!!