The government’s waste management agency – Wasteserv – is paying a private contractor some €2 million a month to hire much of its workforce, some of them low-paid third-country nationals and a Labour Party TV employee, The Shift is informed.
Since its inception over a decade ago, Wasteserv, unlike other government organisations, does not directly hire its employees. Instead, it has an agreement with Qormi-based Ozo Group to provide up to 700 staff.
The latest three-year tender was awarded to the company, which Mario Muscat and members of the Zammit Tabona family own. The company is obliged to supply some 700 personnel to the public waste management agency.
Asked by The Shift for a copy of the latest contract, Wasteserv turned down the request, citing “commercial sensitivity”.
However, it said that during the first ten months of the current contract, the Ozo Group was paid a total of €18.5 million, or between €1.8 to €2 million per month.
As with such human resource agencies, the fees paid by the client are split between paying the worker and a commission that the company keeps.
Circumventing the rules?
One individual employed via Ozo Group to work at Wasteserv is Pearl Agius. Once a reporter at Labour Party TV station One, she was put on the Wasteserv payroll as a lawyer before even obtaining her warrant to practice.
The CEO of the government agency, Richard Bilocca, refused to publish her contract when asked by means of a Freedom of Information request.
He justified the refusal by stating that Wasteserv does not employ or pay Agius, as Ozo Group has recruited her. Therefore, he said he does not have a copy of her contract.
Sources with information on the matter told The Shift that it was Minister Miriam Dalli’s Energy Ministry who, through Wasteserv, pushed Bilocca to ask the private contractor to put the lawyer and Labour Party journalist on the payroll.
Aguis is supposed to work at her Wasteserv office, although she is reportedly often found at the One TV newsroom instead.
During the past years, a growing number of small HR companies have appeared, supplying mainly third-country nationals to larger companies for employment while taking a cut.
The government has encouraged this trend, which has based the country’s economic strategy on population growth rather than added value and quality, a point addressed by the Chamber of Commerce this week.