Hunting chief served as government consultant during referendum

While heading pro-hunting referendum campaign, Lino Farrugia remained on government’s payroll as hunting and trapping specialist

Hunters’ federation boss Lino Farrugia receives just under €1,000 a month for consulting the environment ministry on hunting and trapping, a consultancy which he kept during the contentious referendum on hunting earlier this year. 

Six months after the Labour administration said it would no longer pay the hunters’ federation for consultancy, Farrugia was engaged on a €983.33 monthly retainer. 

Information tabled in Parliament on Monday in reply to a question by opposition MP Kristy Debono shows that Farrugia was engaged by direct order in January 2014.

The hunters’ chief has been paid €11,800 over the past 12 months, however the information tabled by Environment Minister Leo Brincat does not indicate the duration of his contract. 

The decision to keep Farrugia as a “hunting and trapping specialist” during the hotly contested hunting referendum is highly questionable given that he was leading the Yes campaign while consulting government. 

Labour leader and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had claimed that the Labour Party did not help the hunting lobby, however during the campaign he boosted the hunters by showing his support for spring hunting with a number of clinical pronouncements. 

Farrugia’s consultancy also belies the parliamentary secretary responsible for hunting Roderick Galdes’ previous assurances that government was in no need for consultancy by hunters.

Upon being elected to government in 2013, Galdes’ spokesperson had said hunters would no longer be paid for consultancy, as was the case under PN governments but they would receive funding through other channels. 

Galdes had decided to revise the agreement with FKNK, the hunters’ federation, after it emerged that it had been paid €17,500 for consultancy work in 2012.

“The previous administration’s agreement with the FKNK needs to be revised because the Government does not require consultancy services from the FKNK or any other NGO,” Galdes’ spokesperson had told the Times. 

In 2011-12, Farrugia was paid €17,500, money which he said was used by the federation to write reports and conduct research.

The first consultancy contract with FKNK was signed in August 2006 when government agreed to fund “consultancy services” related to hunting and trapping. However, in June 2013, Galdes had said the consultancy was halted in March 2013. 

Ironically, the highlight of the hunters’ campaign consisted of deriding a consultancy that had been awarded to Saviour Balzan in 2001 for advice regarding the EU accession negotiations on the birds’ directive.  Balzan was one of three main spokespeople who led the referendum campaign in the early part of this year.

In April, the proposal to ban spring hunting, during which migrating birds are shot before they can breed was narrowly rejected by the electorate, with the hunting lobby winning the vote by a mere 2,200 votes. 

During the past year, the environment ministry also paid Leonard Caruana €3,504.60 for legal services in connection with legislation related to trapping and hunting.