Rita Schembri resigns from OLAF supervisory committee

Permanent Secretary tenders resignation from EU anti-fraud unit’s watchdog

Rita Schembri
Rita Schembri

Permanent secretary Rita Schembri has tendered her resignation from the OLAF supervisory committee, MaltaToday has learnt, as pressure mounted inside the European Parliament on the way the EU's anti-fraud unit is carrying out its investigations.

Schembri, a permanent secretary in the Maltese civil service, headed the OPM's internal audit and investigations department before suspending herself pending an inquiry by the Auditor General into an alleged breach of ethics, revealed by MaltaToday.

Schembri, 46, was revealed to have conducted private business affairs on behalf of a gaming company from her own government offices without declaring her interest to the head of the civil service.

The Auditor General's inquiry is still ongoing.

Schembri's IAID was also involved in the investigation into former commissioner John Dalli, who resigned in October 2012 after OLAF claimed there was circumstantial evidence that he was aware of a bribe attempt to reverse a ban on the sale of Swedish snus. As IAID head, Schembri headed the anti-fraud coordinating unit that liaised with OLAF in Brussels.

Additionally, Schembri was propelled into the news after it was revealed she had been declared by a court of having acted fraudulently in the regard of landlord Joe Borg, whose restaurant she had illegally sub-let to a third party, pocketing €54,000 in key money that had to be shared with Borg.

The NAO inquiry into Schembri's alleged breach of the public service's code of ethics is also still ongoing, 13 weeks since the investigation was launched.

Schembri temporarily stepped down from her position as head of the IAID on 23 December 2012, pending an inquiry by the Auditor General into the allegations.

Among those interviewed by Auditor General Anthony Mifsud was whistleblower Philip Rizzo, an independent auditor and disability rights campaigner who revealed that Schembri was conducting private business from her government offices.

Rizzo, who described himself as a "witness to Schembri's lack of professional ethics in the public sphere", produced email correspondence showing that Schembri carried out business on behalf of gaming firm Far East Entertainment plc, to purchase a 60% stake in the Casinò di Venezia, of Birgu.

Rizzo himself had been engaged by FEE to meet Schembri at the IAID offices, wherein it turned out that the permanent secretary was conducting private business for FEE in the government office, in breach of the public service management code of ethics: using official IAID facilities for private purposes; and failing to declare a possible financial or other interest in FEE's casino bid.

Schembri has denied having carried out any business advisory services to private firms.

The plot is getting thicker. Possession of the original OLAF report is strange because only Commission President Barroso had a copy, which he sent to the Maltese Attorney General. It was kept under wraps and not even the accused former EU Commissioner Dalli, or members of the European Parliament knew about its contents. After OLAF finalised their investigations they sent the report to the Commission President. How did Rita Schembri manage to get a copy? Who is/are her friends at OLAF? Commission spokespersons have repeatedly stated that they do not even wish to refer to the report contents, let alone divulge what it contains. So what interests did Rita Schembri has to possess an original copy of the report? Is it normal practice for OLAF classified reports to find their way to members of OLAF supervisory committee?
Why did the previous Chief Permanent Secretary, Dr Grima, allow her there in the first place after being found in serious breach of Civil Service regulations? Clearly because she was a GONZIPN clique member. Why did he allow her - because he too was Cabinet Secretary and as such a GONZIPN clique member. Who was responsible for the PM's office and the theft of equipment and stationery etc at Castille - clearly the head of the Civil Service. SO WHY HAS HE NOT BEEN ARRESTED AND INVESTIGATED.
About time ukoll! Mela dawn jahsbu li GonziPN ghadu hemm? Anke din il-bicca ta Balzan ghaliha kienet politically motivated! Altru milli rikkat ta Balzan! Malta saret fossa ta kobor immens taht Dr Gonzi!
About time ukoll! Ma nistax nemmen li entita bhall- OLAF ipermettew lil din tmexxihom dak iz-zmin kollu minghajr ma ndunaw xinhi. Nispera li issa xi hadd fic-civil jara ftit x'ghamlet din waqt li kienet il-kap tal-audit intern. Nistenna bil-herqa ir-rapport tal-AG dwar dan il-kaz li ilu jikaxkar wisq issa.
maria aquilina
NO! NO! NO! The inquiry at the Auditor General is not ONGOING. It was finalised in end February and report submitted to Auditor General. Check your news.