Education Minister Justyne Caruana is yet to publicly apologise or offer any comment on giving her “incompetent” close friend a €5,000-per-month job that he failed to do and then lied about.
Caruana has, over the past few days, ignored multiple requests for comment by Times of Malta over the scandal which saw her reward Daniel Bogdanovic for work carried out by her own department.
An investigation by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler found Caruana abused her power by giving the ex-footballer a job within her own ministry.
Bogdanovic and Caruana have denied claims they were in an intimate relationship at the time the contract was handed out, instead using the term “friendship”.
The report, which found the minister breached ethics rules, lays bare how, although Bogdanovic was paid handsomely to review the national sport school, he did not write the report himself and then repeatedly lied about it when questioned.
According to Hyzler’s findings, there was a “concerted effort to hide Bogdanovic’s incompetence” and the work he was paid to carry out was, in fact, done by one of Caruana’s consultants, Paul Debattista.
Hyzler recommended that parliament’s standards committee consider referring the report to the police, highlighting a potential violation of the criminal code that carries a jail term of up to six months.
However, Prime Minister Robert Abela has declined to take any immediate action to remove Caruana, saying: “Let’s let proceedings take their course.”
His approach differs markedly from that taken with Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar, who was asked to resign as parliamentary secretary before an ethics probe into her dealings with businessman Yorgen Fenech had even been concluded by Hyzler.
OPM chief of staff approved employment
It transpires from Hyzler’s report that it was Abela’s chief of staff, Glenn Micallef who first authorised Bogdanovic’s employment within the education minister’s secretariat as a customer care official.
A further request to give Bogdanovic the €5,000-per-month contract via direct order was separately approved by the finance ministry. The contract was rescinded after a MaltaToday report about the direct order.
Abela said that he would wait for parliament’s committee to discuss the report’s findings.
The bi-partisan committee can either adopt the report’s conclusions or it can decide to dig deeper, calling in witnesses of its own before taking a final decision. This process could take weeks, if not months.
Parliament is currently in recess and is not due to return until January 10 although parliamentary committees can continue to meet.
One of Hyzler’s conclusions is that the committee should discuss whether or not to hand over the report to the police for a criminal investigation.
The Hyzler report highlights the possibility of an investigation into a potential violation of articles 124 and 125 of the criminal code.
Those articles concern public officials taking a private interest in issuing orders or handing out contracts and carry jail terms of up to six months for anyone convicted of breaching them.