The Foundation for Medical Services, which falls under the direct responsibility of Health Minister Chris Fearne, is refusing to adhere to an order by the Information and Data Protection Commissioner to give Times of Malta access to the contracts of employment of its CEO, Carmen Ciantar, and its Projects Director, Neville Gafà, according to the Freedom of Information Act.
Instead, through its lawyer, the FMS has filed an appeal against the decision of the commissioner, arguing among other things, that both Ms Ciantar and Mr Gafà are not involved in politics.
In her written submissions to the Appeals Tribunal, FMS lawyer Katrina Borg Cardona – herself a political appointee on various government entities – argued that it was not true that public interest should prevail in this circumstance as “the commissioner did not bring a valid proof on what is the public interest of the employment contract of private persons who are not in the public or political arena”.
Times of Malta had asked FMS – a public entity – under the Freedom of Information Act to provide the employment contracts of Ms Ciantar and Mr Gafà.
After a refusal by the FMS, the Information and Data Protection Commissioner upheld a complaint by the newspaper and asked the FMS to hand over the contracts.
Not true that public interest should prevail
Dr Borg Cardona is also arguing that a confidentiality clause in both contracts preclude their publication.
Both Ms Ciantar and Mr Gafà were given their public jobs without a public call and on the direct instructions of members of the government.
In Ms Ciantar’s case, her appointment was made by Health Minister Chris Fearne as a person of trust.
She currently sits on the national executive of the Labour Party’s women’s section – Nisa Laburisti – and also was campaign leader of Mr Fearne’s efforts to be elected deputy leader of the Labour Party.
Previously married to former Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Ms Ciantar was given a remuneration of over €100,000 a year paid from public funds.
Neville Gafà, until a few months ago a member of Labour’s national executive and a staunch party supporter, was given a contract as projects director at the FMS by Mr Fearne’s predecessor, Minister Konrad Mizzi on a person of trust basis.
Although he was paid over €45,000 for his FMS job, Mr Gafà was seconded to the Office of the Prime Minister and worked in the customer care office on affairs which had nothing to do with the FMS.
When Times of Malta contacted Mr Gafà at Castille and asked how come he was working at Dr Muscat’s office while receiving a salary from the FMS, Mr Gafà did not reply.
A few weeks ago, after embarrassing news that Mr Gafà met various Libyan government ministers and a leader of a militia while on “a holiday” in Libya, Mr Fearne terminated his contract at the FMS.
It is not yet known where Mr Gafà is currently working and whether he is still employed by the government.
The Prime Minister had publicly contradicted his Deputy Prime Minister on Mr Gafa’s employment status stating that he was in the process of being transferred and not terminated.
Dr Muscat had also praised Mr Gafà for doing a good job.