Wasteserv CEO can’t explain why 30% of pre-election engagements hailed from Herrera’s constituency

Wasteserv CEO told MPs he could not explain why three out of 10 Wasteserv employees employed right before the 2017 election hailed from the environment minister’s constituency

Wasteserv CEO Tonio Montebello has told today's PAC that he could not explain why 30% of workers employed in days prior to June 2017 election were from environment minister Jose Herrera's district (File photo)
Wasteserv CEO Tonio Montebello has told today's PAC that he could not explain why 30% of workers employed in days prior to June 2017 election were from environment minister Jose Herrera's district (File photo)

The CEO of the national waste agency Wasteserv has told MPs he had “absolutely no idea” why 30% of workers employed just days before the June 2017 general election, hailed from the environment minister’s district.

Tonio Montebello was answering questions from the Public Accounts Committee when he said he could not explain why 30% of these employees were from the first electoral district, where José Herrera, the minister responsible for Wasteserv, contests.

Asked by PAC chairman Beppe Fenech Adami if he could explain these workers hailed specifically from the first district, Montebello said Wasteserv’s practice was to ask its contractor to provide workers as required. “Maybe we can ask the contractor why he chose such an amount from District 1,” Montebello said.

Montebello said he would take an oath saying he was never asked by Herrera to employ specific personnel, in a reply to a request from Labour MP Julia Farrugia Portelli.

Montebello said a memorandum of understanding Wasteserv had with other entities, such as the Malta Tourism Authority, allowed it to engage people who may not be necessarily employed with Wasteserv but in other departments.

He replied in the affirmative when asked by Fenech Adami whether people engaged by Wasteserv in the days prior to the June election would then work in other departments unrelated to Wasteserv.

Montebello explained that the Wasteserv board was charged with approving operating expenditure, the bulk of which consist of employee wages.

But he said there was no document indicating how many people needed to be employed. “We only discuss the number of people needed with the board. But it is only the operating expenditure which is on paper and which requires approval from the board,” he said.

“The board only approves the cost of engaging people, but I then decide, together with the chairman, how many people are required. There is nothing in writing.”

He also told the PAC that the minister had, in meetings with himself and the chairman, asked Wasteserv’s assistance in placing people within other government departments, and Wasteserv then gave its help in this regard. He then qualified this by saying he wasn’t sure in which time period such a meeting would have taken place.

Asked by Nationalist MP Claudio Grech why – following the fire which destroyed Wasteserv’s sorting shed which resulted in the redeployment of 160 existing employees – the entity still felt the need to employ new workers, Montebello said “some of the employees were for Wasteserv, some were for other departments.”

He said that after the fire, more workers were needed to sort waste manually and that some other workers were needed for the Malta North plant.

Wasteserv employed 400 people by the end of 2013, but the number stood at 763 as of December 2017.

Replying to Fenech Adami’s comments that the number of workers had doubled in seven years, Labour MP Robert Abela claimed this reflected a nationwide increase in employment.

Azzopardi withdraws comment saying Abela lied about him

Commotion erupted when Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi passed a comment implying Abela had “lied" about him.

Abela asked Azzopardi to specify what it was that he had allegedly lied about, and insisted that Azzopardi withdraw the comment, with Fenech Adami commenting that the PAC meeting could not be conducted like an electoral campaign.

Azzopardi eventually conceded in withdrawing the comment, but this was followed by Farrugia Portelli accusing Fenech Adami of being “not fit to chair this committee”… “You are not fit for purpose, you should be ashamed of yourself. You are meant to be fair as chairman.”

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