Bundy claims PBS board took decisions that weren't in company's interest

Former PBS CEO John Bundy insisted that several decisions taken by the board were not in the best interests of the company and were the cause of its financial problems

PBS’ Board of Director’s profligate spending was a cause of its financial problems, according to its former CEO.

From the witness stand on Tuesday afternoon, former PBS CEO John Bundy gave the Industrial Tribunal information on a number of board decisions which were not in the interest of the company including one scenario where the Board Chairman allegedly told six countries who were participating in the Junior Eurovision in Malta that PBS would pay for their expenses. 

He had filed an unfair dismissal claim against PBS after he was sacked by the board of directors. 

Bundy took up his role as CEO at the national broadcaster in August 2016, only for him to be dismissed from his post in November 2017 after a unanimous vote by the board. A statement issued by PBS said that Bundy was fired because he had 'breached procurement regulations' when he awarded a €500,000 car leasing contract.

In today’s sitting, Bundy spoke about the car leasing situation, claiming that the board was fully aware of what he was doing. The board had approved him selling the old cars, he said. “I don’t think any Chairman would give the ok to sell and scrap old cars without asking about new cars for the company,” Bundy said.

READ MORE: Former PBS chief admits to secret recordings of board meetings

Upon his appointment, he had met with the various departments to see what main issues there were in the company, and what could be improved upon. The issue of the vehicles being old and causing trouble was raised, he said.

Bundy testified that he had then called a meeting with the financial controller, the procurement manager and the sales manager to resolve this issue. He said that a document was drawn up showing the cost of maintaining and licencing the vehicle fleet over the previous year, which had amounted to over €24,000. 

He had tried to explore the possibility of either purchasing or leasing new cars, but said that he was told that buying new cars was not an option due to the bad financial position of the company. He said that this was the first time he had heard that the company had financial troubles.

In a meeting with managers, one of them had told Bundy that a tendering process was not the best idea, given the length of time it would take, and so they had decided to gather quotes from vehicle leasing companies instead. Bundy said that he had insisted on obtaining quotes from all of the vehicle leasing companies in Malta.

Around 13 or 14 quotations were gathered, he said, and the Burmarrad Commercials offer was found to be the most advantageous. Bundy had no idea of the company’s operations, he said, telling the tribunal: “I didn’t even know they leased vehicles at the time, and thought they were just in construction.”

Three meetings were held with Burmarrad Commercials and PBS managers, he said, adding that the managers had also wanted to sell and scrap the old vehicles, highlighting that the board had approved this. 

He said that the Procurement manager told him that this process was better than tendering. 

On the company’s financial situation, Bundy stressed that he always worked to better the company. 

He argued that a heated discussion with the board had developed over programme scheduling, saying that he wanted the current affairs discussions programmes to come after prime time, so that the more lucrative programmes could take the prime time slots. The Board however, rejected this idea he said, despite the fact that PBS Head of News Reno Bugeja, who had his own current affairs programme, had agreed with him on this issue.

Bundy also raised a number of other issues dealing with the PBS finances. He said that during the Junior Eurovision song contest which Malta hosted in 2016, six nations who were meant to take part were asking PBS to pay for all their expenses, including accommodation, transport and food.

Bundy explained that, unbeknownst to him, Chairman, Tonio Portughese had told these six countries that if they agreed to participate, their expenses would be paid for. He said two countries had eventually backed out but PBS had ended up having to pay for the other four. 

On other occasions, €1,000 was spent for lunches over the course of ten days.

The former CEO said that the Board had tried to organise a board meeting in a very expensive hotel in Gozo with an overnight stay.

He claimed to have succeeded in stopping this from happening, but highlighted that it had happened twice in the past, once where the board bartered with a company to pay for their accommodation in exchange for advertising, and once where the board paid. In both these meetings, he said, the board members also took their partners.

READ MORE: Investigation finds ‘flagrant breach’ of rules in €469,000 PBS car lease deal

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