Just another Sunday

They should dig deep in the Ciliberti allegations, and Bartolo should stop to think whether he can defend his position by keeping his permanent secretary, or lose him and start afresh

Rizzo did not even know about the Ciliberti connection
Rizzo did not even know about the Ciliberti connection

I guess I have to come to terms as to why my colleague, who analyses the newspapers on TVM every Sunday, could not quite understand why Joseph Caruana’s picture was featured in an article on Philip Rizzo in MaltaToday. Caruana is permanent secretary at the Education Ministry. Rizzo was CEO at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools.

Well, I can understand that the appreciation of conflict of interest is not something understood by everyone. 

But surely the very fact that the permanent secretary at the Education Ministry has a brother appointed (as a person of trust) to overlook procurement at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools, is perhaps a fine example of conflict of interest.

But let us for a moment forget about conflicts of interest.

Everyone in his right mind should have known that the appointment of Philip Rizzo as CEO at FTS would have led to this. Not only because Rizzo is well known for being a stickler for correctness but also because he has always stood up against the slightest whiff of impropriety, even when the whiff is highly diaphanous.

He may not always be correct, but then politicians should have been aware of how he acts and thinks. 

That he refuses to talk to the press after having created such a ruckus is strange though.

Then the real story, illustrated on our front page, shows that the flagging of Dwardu Caruana took place well before Rizzo started to have cold feet at the FTS. 

Ironically he failed to meet the person who complained to the Education Minister about some serious allegations in the procurement procedure, even though he was asked to.

The real farce is that the permanent secretary accepted to meet the complainant, knowing all too well that the complaints were against his brother. And worse still, he had his brother sitting down at the meeting.

Evarist Bartolo, a competent minister by all means, can argue that he did his job and did not rest on his laurels. Yes, sort of, yes, because leaving the surgery to his permanent secretary, or Rizzo, was not enough of an option. The proverbial shit hitting the fan was only a question of time.

And now the Sandro Ciliberti connection is even more worrying. There was clearly a very clear allegation that Dwardu Caruana was close to Ciliberti and Ciliberti was making it clear that furniture supplies were only possible through his “Italian sourced company”.

Now, the permanent secretary, in the presence of his brother, did f*** all about this serious allegation. And it would be interesting to note if Rizzo or the Education minister got wind of all this.

The Ciliberti allegations are very serious.

What I do know is that Rizzo suddenly woke up to the numerous direct orders issued and presented the police with allegations but little or no evidence other than the same evidence we as journalists have from public domain information on direct orders.

If I were CEO, I would have put my foot down and asked for all the relevant information or files or else called in Dwardu Caruana and sacked him.

That does in no way exculpate the appointment of Dwardu Caruana in the first place by Evarist Bartolo. He should not have been appointed in such a sensitive position at FTS.

The moral of this story is that the FTS, under different respective governments, has been an attraction for questionable fiscal activity. Under Louis Galea there was another FTS inquiry – strangely kickstarted by MaltaToday. No heads rolled then. 

What is needed is some clear protocol, a check and balance system, to be in place. 

I am not too sure if the police or an inquiry will find any criminal activity. But they should dig deep in the Ciliberti allegations, and on his part Bartolo should stop to think whether he can defend his position by keeping his permanent secretary, or lose him and start afresh.


As promised, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has published the findings of the Carmelo Vassallo inquiry on the football player Daniel Bogdanovic matter, based on testimonies given by various individuals. They prove that Jesmond Zammit did phone Assistant Commissioner Carmel Magri, known in the police force for his political leanings. 

Zammit, who serves as football coach for the Xewkija soccer team and at the same time is head of secretariat for Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg, said that he was only checking.

Gozo Minister Anton Refalo said under oath that he did not get involved in the matter.

Carmel Magri phoned three times from the police HQ in Floriana and that was interpreted as no pressure at all, of course. So the problem, it appears, lies with the police inspector who somehow is now being blamed for the whole affair.

Zammit, a role model for all the government’s heads of secretariat, will go back to work, and Carmel Magri will continue as one of the police force’s most hardworking assistant commissioners. Antonello Grech, as Superintendent, will be very proud of not influencing the police inspector who had arrested Bogdanovich, and Joseph Muscat has honoured his commitment of carrying out an inquiry, which was only a whitewash.

The fundamental question that the inquiry did not answer is: is it correct for an official from a ministry, in this case, Jesmond Zammit, to take up the telephone and hold a conversation with an assistant commissioner about a person being held under arrest for domestic violence. This question, or consideration, was completely ignored by Brigadier Carmel Vassallo, who may be a very competent military officer but in this case showed a feeble grasp of what is impolitic in the matter.

As an aside I am also very happy that state broadcasters reported the findings as they were published, without any journalistic angle taken into consideration. And yes, on my part I probably will learn not to call for another inquiry but to continue publishing and be damned.

If you are as disgusted as I am, please let me know off the record, or on the record, all you happen to know about people who abuse of the system. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that sooner rather than later, they will slip and we will be there to make sure their irregularities are made known to the public.