A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found there was “no need” for former Labour MP and parliamentary secretary Rosianne Cutajar to be engaged as a consultant at the Institute of Tourism Studies led by CEO Pierre Fenech, calling the “backdated” contract “irregular” and “fraudulent.”
The 50-page NAO report also found that Cutajar lied in 2020 when submitting a declaration to parliament for incomes made the previous year, failing to mention the “contrived” consultancy.
The consultancy contract was first revealed by The Shift in April, following leaks of chats between Cutajar and Yorgen Fenech, charged with involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The contract showed how Cutajar received a salary from ITS three months before telling Fenech she had decided to take on the consultancy.
In a statement accompanying its report, the NAO said Cutajar’s consultancy “breached regulations governing recruitment,” both for public sector employees and persons of trust.
While investigating the case, which former ADPD head Carmel Cacopardo raised, the NAO was met with “dissonant perspectives” from ITS CEO Pierre Fenech, former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi and his chief of staff. The tourism minister’s recollection was described as “vacuous”.
The report could not establish any work done by Cutajar for the consultancy. This “dearth of evidence casts doubt on what work was carried out.,” it said.
“When seen in the context of earlier points raised by this Office regarding the irregularity and fraudulent nature of this employment, the poor output, if any, of the consultant (Cutajar) aggravates concerns of negligence in the disbursement of public funds by all involved in this contrived engagement,” the report concluded.
The only evidence the office, led by Auditor General Charles Deguara, could find were two calendar event screenshots, an organisational chart, and four dissonant meetings.
The NAO raised concerns “that the contract of employment was backdated by at least one month and therefore irregular,” noting Cutajar’s chats with Yorgen Fenech, a draft contract of employment sent to Pierre Fenech and the “payment of significant arrears in the first salary paid.”
When declaring her income to parliament in 2020, the NAO found that Cutajar omitted the consultancy, resulting in a €14,132 in payments unlisted to parliament.
Earlier this week, a seperate investigation into the contract by Standards Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi could not proceed as the one-year prescription for ethics breaches had elapsed.
In reaction, Cutajar claimed the case was now closed.
She said the complaint was “yet another attempt to distance me from my political and Labourite activism,” noting that she “always was and will be a Labourite.”
Following the chat leak with Fenech, Cutajar was kicked out of the Labour Party’s parliamentary group.