Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had “lied barefacedly” when he claimed to have been unaware of any misconduct justifying the transfer of currently suspended Fisheries director Andreina Fenech Farrugia away from the Fisheries Department in 2010 Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi claimed on Wednesday.
Speaking on the adjournment in Parliament, Dr Azzopardi said Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri had also lied to Parliament when he stated that there was “no record” in Dr Fenech Farrugia’s file stating why she had been transferred in 2010.
He also claimed that Environment Minister José Herrera had known of a magisterial investigation into Dr Fenech Farrugia since October 2018, but had nevertheless only taken action when the tuna bribery allegations story broke on Spanish and Maltese media.
The Opposition MP tabled a 100-page report compiled by the Internal Audit and Investigations Department (IAID), which falls under the Office of the Prime Minister and reports to the Principal Permanent Secretary.
The report, he said, had followed a request by European Commissioner for Fisheries Maria Damanaki for an administrative inquiry on the basis of Malta’s poor performance on bluefin tuna, and preceded Dr Fenech Farrugia’s removal in 2011.
He also tabled the minutes of a 2013 meeting held between Marlene Bonnici, who was at the time the Maltese permanent representative to the EU, and Lowrie Evans, director general of the EU Commission Department for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, or MARE.
The minutes quoted Ms Evans stating that the Maltese fishery had been “completely transformed” during the preceding two years, especially considering that the sector had been in dire straits in 2011.
Dr Azzopardi asked the Prime Minister to justify why he had instructed former environment minister and now a member of the European Court of Auditors, Leo Brincat, to appoint Ms Fenech Farrugia to the Fisheries Department’s top post.
Between the IAID report, which was in Dr Fenech Farrugia’s file, and the minutes of the meeting with the director general of MARE, he had had plenty of information on her previous conduct.
Nevertheless - perhaps because of the enormous influence wielded by interests in the sector - he had removed the person responsible for the transformation of the Maltese fishery for the better and replaced him with Dr Fenech Farrugia.
Even now, Dr Fenech Farrugia had been suspended on full pay when an average civil servant under investigation for “stealing a bar of soap” would have been suspended on half pay.
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