Unpublished MCAST inquiry presented in defamation case against MaltaToday

Unpublished MCAST inquiry on allegations of wrongdoing by former employee filed in libel case against MaltaToday over its own reports on the inquiry witnesses

The full inquiry report into allegations of corruption by a former MCAST executive, has been presented in court in a defamation case filed against MaltaToday.

The report into the allegations made by former human resources manager Josephine Abdilla against MCAST top brass, was filed in court after inquiry chairman Paul Bonello, a financial services practitioner, was called to testify and was released from any secrecy obligations by the court to present the report.

MaltaToday has been sued for libel by Josephine Abdilla over a series of newspaper reports dealing with the inquiry and the testimonies of MCAST staff. She is represented by lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona.

MaltaToday first reported in August 2021 that Abdilla’s allegations of corruption had been disproved by the ministerial inquiry.

The ministerial inquiry was launched in 2018 after Abdilla was placed on forced leave following complaints by her co-workers.

When the ministry responded with an official inquiry into the serious claims, all allegations were disproved. 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.

The report shows that Abdilla was reviled by staff and teachers for her abrasive and suborning behaviour. She has denied the accusation in a lengthy right of reply to MaltaToday, despite the clear findings of the inquiry.

The MaltaToday reports on the MCAST inquiry

The education ministry 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.

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.

The inquiry also found that MCAST had tolerated “an endemic and toxic practice of recommendations” for favoured teaching candidates. The inquiry suggested that the college’s former president of its board of governors, Silvio De Bono, had shown an overweening interest in the college’s running.

De Bono appears to have been petitioned by Castille, who would request that certain applicants be given a job. De Bono said he would always see that should such candidates satisfy the required criteria first and foremost, before they be allowed to progress in the selection process.

De Bono admitted that this political pressure to select ‘recommended’ candidates happened all the time. But he denied giving anyone unfair advantage or that unmeritorious candidates were allowed to progress in a job interview.