Economy Minister Chris Cardona’s former private secretary has been catapulted to the position of chief executive officer of a new public private partnership formed between the Malta Chamber of Commerce and the government.

Dana Farrugia, 36, has been appointed boss of Tech Malta foundation. She served as the minister’s private secretary until a few months ago.

The new government-financed organisation, which aims to promote Malta as a hub for innovation technology and artificial intelligence, was formed earlier this year.

A spokesman for Tech Malta said Ms Farrugia had been chosen after a public call but he refused to give details of her contract, citing data protection laws.

However, following a Freedom of Information request, a copy of Ms Farrugia’s contract was made available showing she is on a three-year contract with an annual financial package of €60,000.

Annual financial package of €60,000

Apart from a salary of €41,000, Ms Farrugia is entitled to an expense allowance of €6,000, a communications allowance of €1,600 and a car allowance of €4,658 a year.

Following an annual review by Tech Malta’s government-appointed chairman, Mark Bugeja, Ms Farrugia is also entitled to another €6,150 a year as a performance bonus.

Ms Farrugia is a former salesperson and manager at communications company GO. She joined Minister Cardona as his private secretary soon after Labour’s return to power in 2013.

Following the 2017 election, he appointed her to the board of directors of Malta Enterprise, another government-remunerated post she still occupies.

In 2016, Ms Farrugia was one of two aides who accompanied Mr Cardona on a Dubai trip that caused public uproar after the National Accounts Office found that about €750 worth of alcoholic beverages had been consumed from the hotel’s minibar during the three-day stay.

The minister had later declared that the bill was not his but of one of his aides.

While it resulted that Ms Farrugia was not involved, Mr Cardona’s chief of staff, Mario Azzopardi, eventually took the blame, saying he would be refunding the money that had come out of public finds.

Following the 2017 election, Mr Azzopardi was replaced as head of the minister’s secretariat and appointed adviser “on the implementation of the electoral manifesto”. Requests to disclose his remuneration have not been met.

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