Updated Friday 5pm
Foundation for Medical Services CEO Carmen Ciantar has asked the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life to investigate the ethics of her €163,000 contract after the Nationalist Party called on the government to cancel it.
The National Audit Office had highlighted Ciantar’s contract as “irregular”.
The responsibility of the foundation falls directly under Health Minister Chris Fearne, whom Ciantar has served as campaign manager.
Following the PN’s press conference, Ciantar said in a Facebook post that she had written to the Standards Commissioner herself and was ready to cooperate in full so that “the truth will out”.
"In a press conference, the PN alleged or gave the impression that there has been a breach of ethics in my appointment as CEO of the FMS or during the carriage of duty in that same role,” she said.
“I categorically deny these false and baseless accusations and to that end have written to the Standards Commissioner myself asking him to investigate these allegations. As I fully assisted the office of the Auditor General during the audit carried out on the FMS, I am ready to cooperate fully with the Standards Commissioner so that the truth will out.”
Labour is 'out of touch' - PN
Earlier on Friday, PN MP David Agius said that it was disappointing to see that Fearne had awarded a person known to be very close to him a high-value contract that, according to media reports, had not even been signed by the Permanent Secretary for Finance.
“It is clear that the Labour government have made wasting millions in people’s money their daily bread,” Agius said.
“We thought that Chris Fearne was different and appeared to be trustworthy, but we’re seeing him in this scandal where he’s appointed someone very close to him, his campaign manager, a €13,000 a month contract.”
“She also serves as his chief of staff, we have to ask what other contracts does Carmen Ciantar hold?
Answering journalist questions on Thursday, Fearne said Ciantar’s appointment was in line with the entity’s statute and followed past procedures.
He also refuted claims that Ciantar serves as his chief of staff, despite her name being listed on the minister's official government page as serving in that role.
Asked whether he would cancel Ciantar's contract, Fearne did not reply and instead argued the NAO's recommendations for the appointment of CEOs had been noted.
Once current contracts expire, he said, new procedures in line with the NAO's guidelines would be followed.
"Ciantar does not get paid for any other job within the ministry other than for her role as CEO," he said.
Agius added that it was proof how out of touch the Labour government is with the people as it paid a contract eight times the value of a nurse’s salary to a foundation head, while the cost of living adjustment remains €1.75 per week as the cost of basic products continues to rise.
“This is not just us who is calling this contract into question but the Auditor General, who is appointed by Parliament and answers to Parliament. We expect that the Prime Minister should follow the AG’s advice and take action where necessary,” he said.
“I don’t see the need to go to the Standard’s Commissioner. If there is cause to take action, then the Prime Minister can make a decision on whether this contract is in the public interest or not.”
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