Civil servants silent on role in Caruana-Bogdanovic scandal

Education Permanent Secretary Frank Fabri ignores questions after damning ethics report

Education minister Justyne Caruana breached ethics when she awarded a contract to her close friend. Ministry officials tried to cover up the mess
Education minister Justyne Caruana breached ethics when she awarded a contract to her close friend. Ministry officials tried to cover up the mess

Scandal-hit Justyne Caruana’s top civil servant has ignored questions over his role in the ethics breach involving the minister.

Frank Fabri has failed to respond to a series of questions, including whether he should resign after the Standards Commissioner concluded that he should not have signed a contract awarded to Caruana’s close friend, Daniel Bogdanovic.

The investigation found that Caruana breached ministerial ethics when she employed Bogdanovic on an assignment he was unqualified for.

Fabri, who is the permanent secretary in the education ministry, has ignored emails, phone calls and several reminders.

Similarly, Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar has also not replied to questions as to whether any disciplinary action will be taken against Fabri.

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler’s report concerned a contract handed to footballer Daniel Bogdanovic by the ministry in January this year to prepare a study for a reform of the National Sports School.

The three-month assignment would have earned Bogdanovic €15,000, despite being unqualified for the job. He was also employed at the ministry under the Community Work Scheme while contracted for the study.

The Standards Commissioner also found that the draft report presented when the contract was terminated had been drawn up by the minister’s consultant Paul Debattista despite Bogdanovic appearing as its author.

On Fabri, Hyzler commented: “In my view, Frank Fabri’s obligation was not to sign the contract, as opposed to signing it and then make elaborate arguments to try and justify it.”

Fabri’s testimony was also deemed unreliable during the ethics investigation.

During his first two testimonies, Fabri said that Bogdanovic was tasked with coordinating school maintenance activities, such as repainting and plastering. Two months later, Fabri said that it was impossible to know what every ministry employee was tasked with.

“For us, Daniel Bogdanovic is just a name and surname,” he told the commissioner.

Fabri was also evasive on who identified Bogdanovic to carry out the National Sports School study. “All I can say is that we processed the request as was expected of us.”

Caruana has so far not faced the press since the Standards report was published last week.

Last Monday, she was invited to an MCAST expo to give a speech but failed to show up.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has refused to sack Caruana, insisting that he will wait for parliament’s ethics committee to deliberate on the findings before taking a decision.

However, Abela has put pressure on Caruana to resign and in comments to MaltaToday said “everyone should shoulder their responsibilities, particularly those in the executive”.