A probe into claims a PN official sought to scupper a candidate’s election hopes at the behest of a “fat cat” has recommended the party adopts a revolving door policy and protection for whistleblowers.

The recommendations by the party’s ethics commission, headed by Joseph Pirotta, came in light of claims that former party official Ray Bezzina conspired during a meeting with an unnamed “fat cat” to torpedo Albert Buttigieg’s candidature.

Buttigieg, who is the mayor of St Julian’s, claimed that he was sidelined during the March election campaign, possibly because of this “fat cat” meeting.

Sources familiar with the probe’s findings confirmed that Buttigieg presented an affidavit about the claims but declined to name the Nationalist official, understood to be Bezzina, or the “fat cat”.

Bezzina vehemently denied the claims. PN leader Bernard Grech and secretary general Michael Piccinino also denied there was any plot to sideline a particular candidate.

Piccinino confirmed to the commission that certain candidates were given more exposure than others as a result of the PN’s election strategy.

The commission noted that while Buttigieg had hardly any exposure during the campaign, there was no evidence to suggest this was done purposely to sideline him.

Furthermore, the commission said that, given the lack of evidence provided by Buttigieg to back his allegations, it was unwise for him to publicly air his claims in a Times of Malta article.

'Fat cat' perceptions may have been strengthened

The commission similarly questioned the wisdom of Bezzina joining db Group right after resigning as Grech’s right-hand man following the party’s election defeat.

This move, the commission said, could have strengthened perceptions, whether justified or not, that top PN officials were close to “fat cats”.

In light of the findings, the commission recommended that the PN adopts a clear revolving doors policy for top officials, to avoid similar situations occurring.

It also called on the party to introduce provisions to encourage whistleblowers to substantiate their claims, while offering them the appropriate protection. The commission noted that it has already proposed the introduction of such a provision as part of a revamp of the party’s code of ethics.

Buttigieg said he welcomed the report and its recommendations.

"I will continue to work for the PN and as mayor of St Julian's, and be an assertive voice in favour of the environment, clean politics and the common good," he said.

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