Janice Bartolo, the partner of Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, has landed a senior managerial job at the Malta Tourism Authority without a call for applications or selection process, The Sunday Times of Malta is informed.
The contract for Ms Bartolo, who until a few weeks ago was a full-time reporter at Labour’s One TV, was signed by the authority’s government-appointed CEO Paul Bugeja last August, a few weeks after Labour’s second consecutive win at the polls.
Asked to explain how Ms Bartolo was handpicked for the job and whether a proper call for applications had been made, Mr Bugeja refused to give any details.
However, following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, this newspaper can confirm that Ms Bartolo was made a senior manager the MTA’s head office in Smart City, a post pegged to an annual salary of over €33,000 a year.
“The MTA normally seeks to employ people through a call for applications and a proper selection process giving an equal opportunity to those who may be qualified to do this job. This has not happened to Dr Bonnici’s partner as we found her on a desk at the MTA soon after the last elections,” a senior MTA official told this newspaper.
According to replies provided through the FOI request, the MTA admitted that Ms Bartolo has been engaged as a senior manager within the Communications Department at the MTA since August 7 without any call for applications.
The MTA confirmed that Ms Bartolo was handpicked for this position and was told to sit for an interview.
Ms Bartolo was found to possess the right skills set and experience
“Ms Bartolo was found to possess the right skills set and experience to fill an existing vacancy within the Communications Department,” the MTA said.
The MTA did not explain why a public call for this position was not issued as is usually done in similar cases.
According to her contract, provided to this newspaper, the former Labour TV reporter was engaged on a one-year service contract on a salary of €33,146, apart from other bonuses.
However, her contract stipulates that her engagement may be renewed following the approval of the MTA’s CEO and the Tourism Minister who in this case is Dr Bonnici’s Cabinet colleague Konrad Mizzi.
The MTA said that Ms Bartolo was employed on a “person of trust” basis and responds directly to the CEO.
Last year, following a leak, Dr Bonnici admitted that as minister responsible for the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, in 2014 he had appointed Ms Bartolo to the board of directors.
When asked about this appointment, Dr Bonnici had described the questions as “a personal attack” and explained that his partner was appointed “prior to them becoming a couple”.
Just a few weeks ago, this newspaper revealed that Dr Bonnici had made another controversial appointment when he nominated another Labour TV reporter, Nicole Buttigieg, to sit on the Petitions Board deciding on whether fines from local council wardens should be lifted.
When her credentials were called into question, Mr Bonnici defended his selection stating that the 21-year-old was capable of doing the job.
Ms Buttigieg will see her income rise by €11,000 a year through this government appointment.
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