Justyne Caruana resigns over Bogdanovic scandal, will not run for 2022 elections

Education minister Justyne Caruana has resigned over an ethics breach that found she gifted her partner a €15,000 contract by direct order • Caruana announces she will challenge Standards Commissioner report

Education minister Justyne Caruana has resigned
Education minister Justyne Caruana has resigned

Education minister Justyne Caruana has tendered her resignation as education minister, on the back of an ethics breach in which she gifted a €15,000 contract to her partner Daniel Bogdanovic.

Her resignation was announced through a government statement. Minutes later, she confirmed her resignation personally on Facebook, and said that she will not contest the next general election.

"I got into politics because I wanted to serve. I was never in politics for power, and so I felt that this was the best decision to take at the moment for the government and the Labour Party," she wrote.

F’laqgħa iktar kmieni llum infurmajt lill-Prim Ministru Robert Abela, bir-riżenja tiegħi minn Ministru...

Posted by Justyne Caruana on Wednesday, December 22, 2021

She added that she will be contesting a report by the Commissioner of Standards that found she breached ethics when gifting the contract to her partner. 

Prime Minister Robert Abela had already exerted pressure on Caruana to resign, even though he was reluctant to kick her out himself after a damning report by the Standards Commissioner.

Earlier this week Abela told MaltaToday "everyone should shoulder their own responsibility" when asked whether retaining Caruana was a blot on his government's efforts to promote good governance.

"Everyone, every MP, particularly those in the executive, have to shoulder their responsibilities, and on that I was clear since my first day as prime minister," Abela told MaltaToday on Monday just after exiting a Cabinet meeting in Castille.

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler found Caruana breached ministerial ethics when she awarded a contract of service to her boyfriend Daniel Bogdanovic.

The damning report found that Bogdanovic was tasked to carry out a study of the sports school, a job he was unsuitable to do as he had no pedagogical training. Moreover, Hyzler found that the report, for which Bogdanovic was to be paid €15,000, was compiled by Paul Debattista, a consultant to the minister.

MaltaToday revealed details of the contract earlier this year. Bogdnavoic was to be paid €15,000 for just three months' work on the national sports curriculum.

In a contract of service running from January 2021 to 20 April 2021, Bogdanovic was to be paid €5,000 every month to visit various government schools and come up with recommendations and initiatives to improve the national school of sport’s ability to produce elite athletes.

The contract was scrapped when the news broke to the public. 

Caruana lacked moral integrity to run the Education Ministry – MUT

In first reactions to her resignation, the Malta Union of Teachers (MUT) said that Justyne Caruana lacked the moral authority and integrity needed to run the Education Ministry.

“It was clear from the beginning, much before the report came out, that the Minister’s decision to give a contract to a close friend of hers was a bad move,” it said in a statement.

The union welcomed her resignation. “This is needed in order for the education sector to keep moving forward after going through three ministers in the past two years.”

'PM indecision led to an Education sector without a minister in the worst time possible' - PN

In a statement, PN said Caruana only resigned after pressure from the Opposition and the work of journalists.

“We have yet another case where Robert Abela chose not to decide, and if it were him, he would have let the parliamentary process occur after the holidays. Robert Abela did not take any action himself and did not sack her himself,” PN stated.

It remarked how the case is not yet closed and that it is waiting for police investigations to proceed, following the recommendations of the Standards Commissioner. “The Prime Minister should also take action against the public officials, including the Permanent Secretary for Education, that approved this scandal."

It argued that the PM’s indecision, led to an Education sector without a minister in the worst time possible, where the educators and students are in limbo about their return to school after the holidays.

“Instead of strong leadership, Malta has a Prime Minister that is facing a resignation after another and a Government that is crumbling with scandals and abuse,” PN concluded.

Caruana's resignation is not enough - ADPD

ADPD - The Green Party said that Caruana's resignation showed a lack of accountability and effective leadership in the civil service and Labour government. 

“A system of unbridled clientelism, favours and corruption is not something new within Maltese governments, but the stories in the media today confirm the rot within the Maltese state, with persons occupying the higher echelons of the Civil Service aiding and abetting this system instead of stopping it as they are duty bound to do!” party chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said. 

Cacopardo said Caruana's resignation was inevitable, while noting it was her second resignation from Cabinet since the start of 2020. "Robert Abela failed miserably in his judgement in giving her a second chance," he said. 

"However, Justyne Caruana’s resignation is not enough. It is inevitable that Frank Fabri – the Permanent Secretary that approved the contract to Justyne Caruana’s close friend Daniel Bogdanovic – submits his resignation too. Our civil service has a key role in the fight for good governance and against abuse and corruption. Permanent secretaries are crucial in this fight."

READ ALSOCivil servants silent on role in Caruana-Bogdanovic scandal