Taxpayers will be forced to pay Stephen McCarthy, who was the politically-appointed chief executive officer of the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA) until 2021, €66,500 in compensation after he was found to have been unfairly dismissed.
According to the Industrial Tribunal, the board of the government agency responsible for promoting innovative technologies, chaired by Joshua Ellul at the time, did not follow the law to the letter when it sought to replace McCarthy.
Taking his case to court, McCarthy accused the agency and Ellul of failing to abide by the law by not agreeing to transform his three-year definite contract into an indefinite one.
He said that once he was not given a new contract within the 12-day time window envisaged by the law, his contract automatically became indefinite and the MDIA could not dismiss him.
On his part, the former MDIA chair argued that since he was leaving the organisation and a new board was still to be appointed by the government, McCarthy had been offered a three-month extension when his definite three-year contract drew to an end.
McCarthy, however, turned the offer down and the MDIA board, which includes Labour Party President Ramona Attard as secretary and Labour spokesman turned government consultant Nigel Vella as a member, decided to dismiss McCarthy.
The Industrial Tribunal, headed by former General Workers’ Union official Harold Walls, concluded that Ellul and the board were in breach of the law when they dismissed McCarthy.
According to the Tribunal, McCarthy should have been dismissed as soon as he did not accept the new contract and the board should not have waited until the 12-day window elapsed.
This negligence on the part of the MDIA’s board led to the Tribunal accepting that McCarthy had been dismissed irregularly and ordered the payment of €66,500 in compensation.
The MDIA falls under the remit of Economy Minister Silvio Schembri.
McCarthy, who was given various positions under Labour, including that of Housing Authority CEO, spent years leading the Union Print – the General Workers’ Union’s now-defunct printing business. He was replaced at the MDIA by Kenneth Brincat.
Ellul, an associate professor at the University of Malta, resigned from the MDIA in 2022 and was replaced by Air Malta’s former Chief Technology Officer Wayne Grixti.