Developers’ chief given 48 hours to substantiate NGO finance claims

Voluntary Organisations Commissioner gives Michael Stivala 48 hours to come forward with proof that NGOs are taking money from businesses to harm competitors

Voluntary Organisations Commissioner Jesmond Saliba
Voluntary Organisations Commissioner Jesmond Saliba

Updated at 2:57pm with statement by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector

Voluntary Organisations Commissioner Jesmond Saliba has asked the president of the Malta Developers Association to substantiate claims that businesses are using NGOs to harm competitors.

Saliba told MaltaToday on Wednesday that it was his duty to safeguard the voluntary sector at every level, including from claims that tarnish the sector’s credibility.

He was reacting to allegations made by MDA President Michael Stivala in an interview with the Times of Malta that businesses were financing the campaigns of environmental NGOs targeting competitors. Stivala did not provide proof for his statements, which he had already made in November 2022 during a radio discussion.

Asked whether he was aware of any such instances, Saliba said that on Tuesday afternoon he emailed Stivala seeking clarifications from him over his comments.

“I asked him within 48 hours to submit any information and evidence to substantiate these claims stated in his interview, which led him to repeat these allegations,” Saliba said.

He added that the several eNGOs that signed a joint statement on Tuesday denting Stivala’s claims are “compliant with the Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations”.

On Tuesday, the Ramblers' Association, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Birdlife Malta, Friends of the Earth, Nature Trust, Din L-Art Helwa and Moviment Graffitti denied Stivala’s claims and challenged him to come forward with proof or retract the allegations.

“We reject these serious allegations and clearly state that we do not engage in such practices. We challenge Mr Stivala to substantiate these outrageous claims or else expect him to immediately retract his statements,” the NGOs said.

The Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector stated that it is unacceptable for people to make such allegations without substantiating the facts in hand.

"With this spirit of respect and solidarity, the Council appeals to all within the voluntary sector and Maltese Society at large to understand that voluntary organisations operate within a legal framework to ensure good practices and transparency in their operation and good management of funds."

It added that any allegations are to be adequately reported to the relevant authorities with the necessary proof. "It is not acceptable that organisations of individuals involved in the voluntary sector are subjected to public shaming."