Three years’ paid leave for MCAST executive who instigated bribery inquiry

MCAST executive on special leave sues MaltaToday over two reports that detailed proceedings of the ministerial inquiry she instigated

A former MCAST official who is still being paid her salary since being placed on special leave in July 2018, has sued MaltaToday for alleged defamation for reporting witness statements made to an internal education ministry inquiry.

Josephine Abdilla’s allegations of corruption were disproved by a ministerial inquiry, which was also sent to the police for investigation on alleged perjury.

Abdilla, who says she has not seen the report, claims MaltaToday’s reports contain “a significant number of serious inaccuracies and what appear to be malicious fabrications.”

Her lawyers are Andrew Borg Cardona and Matthew Cutajar.

Abdilla now claims the two reports by MaltaToday are “a deliberate character assassination” because it reported the allegations made by witnesses summoned to the inquiry board.

The ministerial inquiry was launched in 2018 after Abdilla was placed on forced leave following complaints by her co-workers. She alleged corruption and bribery at the heart of MCAST’s operations in an angry email to the education ministry.

But the inquiry later disproved her allegations and instead, the tables were turned against her: whistleblowers came forward saying they had been pressured by Abdilla in selecting favoured candidates for MCAST teaching jobs. She has denied the accusation in a lengthy right of reply to MaltaToday, despite the clear findings of the inquiry.

The education ministry has spent months refusing to answer this newspaper’s questions on the contents of the inquiry report and whether Abdilla was still being paid her full salary since placed on leave in 2018.

She said she has not seen the report, and no action was taken in her regard, with the education ministry paying her a full pay while being suspended for four years. She said she has made representations on her situation to no avail.

“Not having been confronted with any details as to who is making these accusations, Ms. Abdilla is unable to respond in depth, but in connection with at least four issues, she is able to deny responsibility, as quite simply she was either not involved in the issues or the issue did not take place,” she said in a statement to the press.

Abdilla had also alleged that MCAST’s former chairperson of the board of governors, Silvio De Bono, had solicited a one-month salary as commission from MCAST recruits. She offered no evidence for this allegation, and later retracted the serious accusation. “It’s a joke,” she told the inquiry, denying that De Bono had taken such a bribe.