The government’s industrial estates management agency INDIS Malta has suffered another setback as its CEO Keith Fenech, appointed by Minister Silvio Schembri less than six months ago, has suddenly stepped down.
Fenech’s decision to move back to the private sector, where he spent some 20 years in various managerial positions at Methode Electronics, came just a week after The Shift’s report on mismanagement and political interference at the agency.
The Shift reported how INDIS, which administers lucrative public land and spends millions of euros building factories to be allocated to private business, had been captured by Minister Schembri through the appointment of his two closest canvassers – notary Jean Pierre Attard as chairman and his childhood friend Francois Piccione as deputy CEO with a €101,000 contract.
The Shift has reported how all major decisions at INDIS Malta were being taken by Attard, Piccione and the minister with CEO Keith Fenech being used as a front.
While Fenech, who resigned earlier this week without an explanation barely six months into the job, sources at INDIS told The Shift Fenech was exasperated with how he was being manipulated by the minister’s men to rubber stamp decisions the minister has already taken.
Officially, the ministry said that Fenech was leaving because of a “prestigious international appointment as director of a global company without mentioning that Methode has been his original place of employment.
In another move to get a firmer grip on the government agency, Schembri has taken the opportunity to replace Fenech with one of his chief political canvassers.
Chairman Jean Pierre Attard – a former Labour Party Zurrieq local councillor and a notary with ownership in various property speculation companies – was immediately promoted to the agency’s executive chair without a public call.
Attard had been made INDIS chairman by Schembri a few years ago while at the same time tasking him with the CEO’s position at MIMCOL – another government agency falling under Schembri’s remit.
Attard has now been made INDIS CEO while still serving as chairman and his deputy – practically eliminating any checks and balances between the board and the CEO’s office. His deputy is the minister’s other canvasser, Piccione.
Attard, known to be a close friend and canvasser of Minister Schembri, is a notary by profession but is involved in a number of private property speculation companies.
While notaries are ethically precluded from being personally involved in property speculation, as they are considered to be public officers, Attard is a shareholder in Lux Developments Ltd, SL Property Developments and Yolo Properties Ltd along with other property developers.
His wife, Stephanie, is also a shareholder in three other property development companies – 12 Properties Ltd, Building Heights Ltd and Solitaire Property Ltd.
The companies all share the same address at Best Deal Properties estate agents, which is based in Schembri’s hometown of Luqa.
INDIS Malta conducts daily business with contractors, building developers and suppliers for its industrial-scale projects, paid through various tenders and direct orders issued by the agency.