Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.
The former personal assistant of ex-transport minister Joe Mizzi has been seconded to work as an executive secretary to Michelle Muscat’s Marigold Foundation with a state salary of €35,000 a year, plus benefits.
Mariella Agius Vassallo was working at the Energy and Water Agency (EWA) and was promoted to the position of policy officer by the office of CEO Manuel Sapiano.
Sources at EWA told The Shift that Agius Vassallo was handed the promotion despite having no qualifications in policy. They added she was rarely present at the agency offices despite taking home some €3,000 a month for the role.
Last week, The Shift also reported that the government has also appointed Agius Vassallo as a member of the board of directors of Transport Malta.
The Shift then contacted Sapiano to ask about her role. He admitted she was not currently present as she was seconded on the instruction of the Office of the Prime Minister to work in an organisation under the remit of the foundation owned by the wife of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat – an organisation Michelle Muscat grabbed from Bank of Valletta for only €100 after tens of thousands of euro were spent by the government-controlled bank to set it up.
Sapiano said that since September 2022, Agius Vassallo “was released on paid leave on grounds of public policy to work with The National Alliance for Rare Diseases Support Malta”.
The Shift asked how this happened so soon after her promotion to work in policy in his office and whether she was still receiving the various allowances and benefits included with her position, but Sapiano did not answer.
According to her contract, seen by The Shift following a Freedom of Information request, Agius Vassallo is entitled to some €10,000 in allowances on top of her basic salary at EWA.
However, these allowances are strictly tied to her job description and responsibilities at the EWA and are not transferrable to her new position at an NGO.
Sources told The Shift that Agius Vassallo had worked with Michelle long before she joined the government agency.
Several other staff working for the Foundation are seconded from public services, including her driver.
According to the website of The National Alliance for Rare Diseases Support, it also has a representative in New York, William Buttigieg, the husband of Michelle Buttigieg, a business partner in Muscat’s former jewellery private business, Buttardi.
In 2014, soon after Joseph Muscat became prime minister, Michelle Buttigieg, a Gozitan emigrant living in New York, was appointed as the Malta Tourism Authority’s representative in the US city and put on a €5,000 a month salary. She is still on the MTA’s books.
According to its latest available audited accounts, in 2021, Muscat’s Marigold Foundation, which gets almost all funding from the government and Bank of Valletta, spent nearly half on events and advertising.
The accounts show that of the €146,379 received in donations, 47% or €68,956 was spent on “campaigns, events and other operating expenses”.
At the end of 2021, Muscat’s Foundation held a balance of €742,255. According to law, audited accounts need to be presented annually.