Keith Fenech, the politically-appointed INDIS Malta CEO until last month, was allowed to act as a consultant to local industry giant Methode Electronics while concurrently acting as a public official responsible for the sector, The Shift has confirmed.
While neither Minister Silvio Schembri, who appointed Fenech, nor his canvasser, whom he made INDIS chairman, Jean Pierre Attard, commented on this gross conflict of interest.
William Wait – chairman of the Central Business District Foundation (CBD) – a government/private sector partnership responsible for the Mriehel Industrial estate – confirmed that Fenech indeed played a double role.
Asked to comment on The Shift’s reports on the matter, Wait confirmed that he was: “The Board had been duly informed of Mr Fenech’s involvement with Methode”, Wait, who is also the Chairman of Malta Enterprise, said.
He however insisted that Fenech’s two roles were not in conflict.
“The involvement had nothing to do with the operational function of the Foundation and it was resolved that there is no objection to this involvement,” Wait told The Shift.
Other members of the Foundation’s board who spoke to The Shift contradicted Wait’s statement and insisted they were not aware of Fenech’s double role.
“Now we understand why much of the work the government carried out in Mriehel involved Methode and its surroundings,” one board member said.
Keith Fenech worked for Methode for some 19 years until 2016 when he ‘left’ to take up the position of CEO of the CBD and later also that of INDIS Malta CEO. He continued serving both public roles until the end of last month when Minster Schembri surprisingly announced his departure for a “prestigious new position within a multinational”.
It later resulted that this position was none other than a new directorship at Methode Electronics, his original place of work and which he apparently never left.
Pictures sent by insiders at Methode show Fenech, while still CEO of the government industrial estates agency, participating in training in Belgium earlier this year for Methode.
Insiders told The Shift that Fenech, a close associate of Methode Malta’s Chief Stephen Rizzo, was kept on the company’s books while acting as the government agency’s CEO
Both Rizzo and Fenech did not answer The Shift’s questions.
During the time Fenech occupied both roles, Methode benefitted from government deals. These include the acquisition of a new government factory adjacent to its main plant in Mriehel, significant subsidies during the Covid-19 pandemic and millions of euros in tax credits.
According to his INDIS contract, through which he was paid over €104,000 a year, Fenech was precluded from remaining on Methode’s payroll without the government’s consent: “Except with prior written consent of the Employer (government), the Employee may not be engaged on or concerned with or interested in any other business or occupation, even of a gratuitous nature, and it is stipulated without prejudice to the absolute discretion of the Employer in this regard that consent may not be given if business or occupation concerned constitutes a conflict of interest or many influence negatively the performance of the Employee.”
INDIS was asked for a copy of any such consent it may have given but did not reply.