No political role for PN’s chief executive

The PN has no intention of replacing its secretary-general with a CEO.

PN secretary-general Chris Said and deputy leader for party affairs Beppe Fenech Adami
PN secretary-general Chris Said and deputy leader for party affairs Beppe Fenech Adami

The Nationalist Party is in the coming months expected to appoint a CEO who would be responsible for its commercial activities, freeing the party secretary-general to focus solely on the political business.

A party spokesperson told MaltaToday “the Nationalist Party is currently carrying out a restructuring of the management structure of its commercial company Media.Link.”

However, unlike Labour, the PN has no intention of replacing its secretary-general with a CEO.

“This restructuring process has nothing to do with the political role and functions of the secretary-general or any other political aspect or role within the party,” the spokesperson stressed. 

Following the electoral drubbing suffered in the European elections in May, the PN has gone soft on the issues it is championing and party leader Simon Busuttil has resisted making any radical changes.

However, sources have told this newspaper that in the coming weeks and months the party will be restructuring its commercial entities in a bid to rid the party of the debts which have impacted its political aspect.

The extent of the PN’s financial woes surfaced after the disastrous general election result last year, and although the party has implemented several reforms to address the situation, its finances remain severely straitened.

Last month, PN secretary-general Chris Said told MaltaToday that the party’s operations are “fully sustainable and have been so for almost 10 months, and the party has already closed its accounts on the 2014 European Parliament election campaign.”

With debts standing at up to €8 million, the party’s new administration has had to deal with the mess inherited from former secretaries-general Joe Saliba and Paul Borg Olivier.

Although Said insists that the PN’s finances “are definitely in a better position than they were a year ago” the party is in the process of implementing a number of measures to put its house in order.

Last month, MaltaToday revealed that the opposition is set to put a number of its clubs across the country on the market and Said indicated that the PN was looking at maximising its revenues by renting out unutilised space in its many clubs.

Moreover, the party is looking at re-branding its media house in an attempt to gain more credibility and financial sustainability.

CEO vs secretary-general

The PN started toying with the idea of a CEO to put its house in order after its electoral defeat. However, it has so far stalled on appointing one, mainly because of the European elections last May.

But with the party getting another bloody nose in that latest electoral test, party leader Simon Busuttil has had his hand strengthened and he has gone on record saying that he will be implementing big changes in the near future.

It seems however that the PN will not be going down the same road as Labour, which on Joseph Muscat’s election as party leader in 2008, replaced its secretary-general with a CEO.

This move has severely weakened the roles of Labour’s deputy leaders, with the CEO taking on the leading role within the party.

Labour’s CEO, a post previously occupied by current Transport Malta chief James Piscopo and now held by former MP Gino Cauchi, is in complete control of the party’s commercial and political aspects.

However, sources within the PN have said that the party does not wish to go down the same road and intends to free up current secretary-general Chris Said from commercial responsibilities, freeing him instead to focus on his political role.

Since being appointed to the post in June last year, Said has focused on ending the party’s financial haemorrhage. But with the appointment of a CEO, he would be able to channel his energy into turning the opposition into an alternative government.

Shadow Cabinet reshuffle

In the aftermath of the European elections Busuttil was expected to announce a reshuffle in his shadow Cabinet, however he has so far resisted the temptation to ring the changes within his Parliamentary group.

The opposition leader acknowledges that he needs to appear more decisive and stamp his authority on the party, and calling an end to the Sunday sermons was seen by many in the party as a step in the right direction.

Had the PN leader announced a reshuffle immediately after the election he could have been accused of a knee-jerk reaction. However, postponing it could also draw criticism of being sluggish in ringing out the changes in a struggling party.

The decision to reshuffle a front bench dominated by former political heavyweights carrying a lot of baggage is at Busuttil’s sole discretion, but he has so far failed to answer questions sent by MaltaToday.

Party sources have said that a reshuffle is on the cards and could be announced once Parliament rises for the summer recess at the end of the month.