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Former Nationalist Party communications executive and TVM presenter Lou Bondi has denied his new contract as ‘policy consultant’ with the tourism ministry presented a conflict of interest despite his role as consultant to a major operator in the industry – DB Group.
His role with the tourism ministry came to light following questions in parliament by PN MP Darren Carabott, which revealed Bondi was reintegrated into the list of government advisers, this time as a person of trust for Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo.
Bondi previously had an annual consultancy contract with the government, but this was ended in 2020 after Prime Minister Robert Abela took over from disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
While it is an unspecified part-time contract, the role raises questions on whether this new role could be in conflict with another of his consultancy contracts with the Mellieħa-based DB Group, one of the country’s leading tourism operators.
The tourism minister’s constituency happens to be Mellieħa.
When asked by The Shift about a potential conflict of interest, Bondi said his advice to Bartolo is unrelated to policy.
“My remit is solely limited to giving technical advice on improving communications in the tourism sector. It has nothing to do with policy, let alone its execution,” Bondi said.
According to Bondi, the term the government used to describe his role – “policy consultant” – as specified in a list produced by the minister in parliament, is “the incorrect terminology” but “a standard nomenclature” used by the government for such political appointments.
He added that after pointing out the wrong terminology to the ministry, it was agreed that the word “policy” was removed from the contract. The contract is not publicly available.
He also confirmed he is still on the payroll of DB Group.
Bondi’s programmes on PBS during the PN administration led the Labour Party, then in opposition, to accuse him of bias. But he was immediately put on a government retainer when Joseph Muscat took power in 2013.
His €51,000 consultancy contract at the Office of the Prime Minister was renewed annually until 2020, when Abela became Labour leader.
During the 2020 Labour leadership campaign, Bondi was publicly accused by Abela’s supporters of helping Chris Fearne take over the leadership of the party. Fearne denied the claim, insisting it was designed to harm his campaign among Labour Party delegates.
Asked to declare his income from his latest political appointment, Bondi only said, “The remuneration is in line with the standard rate for this type of part-time services, which is established by the government manual.”
Bondi’s contract is not publicly available, and it is therefore not possible to ascertain his remuneration despite his reference to the “government manual”.