PN’s BA rep absent for eleventh-hour meeting ‘as a matter of principle’

Chris Scicluna, PN representative on Broadcasting Authority board, refused to attend 7am meeting during which chairperson Tanya Borg Cardona called for a surprise vote on controversial move to Valletta

Chris Scicluna has demanded assurances over the Broadcasting Authority's controversial move to Valletta
Chris Scicluna has demanded assurances over the Broadcasting Authority's controversial move to Valletta

One of two PN representatives on the Broadcasting Authority (BA) board Chris Scicluna did not attend a 7am meeting called by chairperson Tanya Borg Cardona out of principle and not because he was unable to attend.

In comments to MaltaToday, Scicluna said “on Thursday afternoon, I received a request to attend a Board meeting at 7:00am the following day, by means of an emailed agenda that was circulated less than 24 hours before the meeting.”

“I found this unacceptable and lacking good governance. As a result I informed the Chairperson, the Board Secretary and all board members that, as a matter of principle, I would not attend the meeting. There was no urgent matter that required us to meet at 7:00am within less than 24 hours of receiving an agenda.”

During the unprecedented 7am meeting, the board approved - by 3 votes to 1 - the authority’s controversial move to Valletta after Borg Cardona called for a surprise vote.

“The agenda did not include any reference or notification about the calling of a vote on this subject matter and it now results that the Chair moved for a surprise call to vote on the matter during Friday’s meeting. There seems to have been an urgency to conclude this matter,” Scicluna said.

The move was backed by Borg Cardona and the Labour Party's representatives on the board, Frans Ghirxi and Alessandro Lia. The second PN representative Peter Fenech was the only one to vote against.

“I have expressed my concerns to the Chairperson and all board members about the situation. In addition, I have also asked for a copy of any authorization issued by the Ministry of Finance, or a competent entity, allowing the Authority to pay for the cost of relocation works by direct order instead of issuing a public call for tenders. So far, I have not been given the desired assurances even though the project was already brought to a vote and decided upon.”

The BA is expected to move into the new premises in Valletta in summer and as reported last month by MaltaToday, economy minister Chris Cardona will move a department within his ministry in the opposite direction and set up office just over 100 metres away from the Labour Party’s headquarters in Hamrun.

The new Melita Street offices – which have only been shown to a handful of people – were said to be inadequate as they are not big enough for the authority’s 30-strong staff and workers have called on the Prime Minister to intervene.

“Therefore my absence from the meeting was definitely not related to “personal reasons” but as a protest and objection to the unorthodox meeting time set for 7am,” Scicluna added.

On Sunday, MaltaToday reported that the BA’s employees sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for his intervention given that the new premises are inadequate. 

Sources close to the Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) told this newspaper that a letter signed by all authority employees represented by the union was sent to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday in which it was noted that they were being kept in the dark over the move. Workers are not against moving but they are concerned about the adequacy of the Valletta building.

The employees complained of the attitude and incompetence in the broadcasting sector shown by the authority’s politically-appointed chairperson, Tanya Borg Cardona, “which makes it impossible to work with her,” sources said.

Expressing his disapproval, Scicluna said “my unequivocal disagreement to the relocation of premises, as proposed by the Chairperson, has been known to the Board for a long time and was once again communicated to the entire Board on Thursday evening by means of a joint memo adopted together with my Board colleague Dr Peter Fenech, wherein we explained a long list of reasons which led to our decision against the project.”