Josianne Cutajar has been handed a high-level government job just days after resigning from her position as CEO of St Vincent De Paul (SVDP), Malta’s largest public elderly care home, despite claiming her reason for leaving her previous post was a wish to return to private medical practice.
In a letter sent to all staff members last month, Cutajar, a general practitioner, said that after ten years at the institution’s helm, she felt she had achieved all her goals and decided to move on, dedicating herself to her private medical clinic full-time.
“The time has now come to start a new experience,” Cutajar told her staff in a farewell letter, adding, “It was my wish and decision that in a few weeks, I will start concentrating all my energy on my medical profession.”
Senior SVDP employees told The Shift that Cutajar’s departure was no surprise as it was widely known that she was not in the good books of Active Aging Minster Jo Etienne Abela.
“Everyone knew that Cutajar’s days at SVDP were numbered, and so it was quite ironic that she told us that she was going to resign,” a senior employee said.
However, employees were surprised when Public Works Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi announced that he was appointing her as the new CEO of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA).
After learning the news from the media, members of the facility’s staff told The Shift how they felt hurt and deceived by Cutajar.
“This is what hurt staff members. Not that she left, but that she tried to give us the impression that she was choosing her profession over us. She could at least have told us the truth,” one senior staff member said.
A legacy of scandals
Cutajar worked as a GP until 2013 before taking up her position at SVDP and being involved in a series of scandals throughout her 10-year tenure. These included cases regarding contracts, tenders, and discrepancies in procurement procedures.
In a major scandal in 2017, the government, led by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, entered into a 15-year direct order worth a record €274 million to manage a 500-bed extension at St Vincent De Paul.
The multi-million direct order contract, associated with an initial tender and awarded to a private consortium owned by James Caterers and a subsidiary of the DB Group, was later investigated by the NAO and found to be illegal.
Cutajar was directly involved in the negotiations of the direct order and in another instance whereby ‘shady’ multi-million-euro contracts were awarded by direct order for cleaning and career services at the facility.
Furthermore, while holding her full-time position at SVDP, Cutajar worked as a doctor in private practice, violating public service rules and constituting a conflict of interest as many of her patients included clients or relatives of clients at SVDP.
Despite this conflict being flagged several times by senior health officials, including Prime Minister Robert Abela, Cutajar was still allowed to continue her private practice from a clinic in Bugibba.
Health and Safety practitioners told The Shift that Zrinzo Azzopardi’s decision to appoint Cutajar as the CEO of OHSA is strange as she has never worked in the sector and has no known knowledge of the area.
Cutajar is married to Mario, an Infrastructure Malta employee, an active Qrendi Lourdes Band Club member, and a central figure in the village festa. Qrendi also happens to be in the constituency of Zrinzo Azzopardi.