Former PBS chief admits to secret recordings of board meetings

The former chief executive of the Public Broadcasting Services has admitted to secretly recording board meetings and passing them on to third parties

John Bundy, who is pursuing an unfair dismissal claim against PBS, admitted to having recorded board meetings discussing scheduling of TVM programmes, without consent
John Bundy, who is pursuing an unfair dismissal claim against PBS, admitted to having recorded board meetings discussing scheduling of TVM programmes, without consent

The former chief executive of the Public Broadcasting Services was recording board meetings and passing them on to third parties, the Industrial Tribunal has heard.

Veteran TV host and broadcaster John Bundy, who is pursuing an unfair dismissal claim against PBS, admitted to having recorded board meetings discussing scheduling of TVM programmes without consent.

MaltaToday is informed that a find-out on Bundy’s workstation after he vacated his post, resulted in sound-clips of board meetings, among which were files that he had shared with third parties.

They included one audio file that was edited, ostensibly after Bundy shared it with a principal at Timecare Studios, a Tarxien company that benefited from around quarter of a million euro in funds from PBS for programming services while Bundy was in charge at the national broadcaster.

The audio file was a recording of a PBS board meeting where directors were questioning Bundy as to why he had scheduled current affairs programmes at 10.30pm – outside primetime viewing hours.

Bundy filed the unfair dismissal claim against PBS after he was sacked by the board of directors. He had been directly installed at the helm of the national broadcaster in August 2016.

But an investigation by the Department of Contracts in early 2018 found a “flagrant breach” of procurement rules when PBS took out a €398,000 car-leasing contract for eight years, on Bundy’s watch.

The investigation led to the termination of the contract, which was again confirmed in court to the detriment of contractor Burmarrad Commercials.

The board and former CEO had already locked horns over Bundy’s profligate spending, with the car-leasing contract – which totals at least €469,000 when including VAT – becoming the subject of an internal inquiry by auditors RSM.

In September 2017, the PBS board passed a motion of no confidence in Bundy after learning of the leasing contract. Bundy had only raised the issue once at board level on 18 January 2017, when he sought advice on replacing PBS’s ageing car fleet.

The investigation revealed that meetings were held with the prospective supplier, Burmarrad Commercials, before the company submitted its ‘winning’ quotation.

“It is clear that the conduct by [PBS] seems, a prima facie, to have been focused to advantage the award of the quotations to Burmarrad Commercials. This is in flagrant breach of the procurement regulations,” the director of contracts said.

It was only after a meeting with Burmarrad Commercials’ representatives at PBS, that the company’s final quotation was actually submitted. In an email, the representative later told PBS employees: “…It was a great pleasure meeting you this morning. As discussed please find attached the revised quotations for the leasing of a fleet of vehicles for PBS.”

Contracts Department director-general Anthony Cachia said the email and the fact the company had submitted its winning quotation after the meeting, meant Burmarrad Commercials was “an accomplice” in PBS’s breach of rules.

There was an additional breach: the €398,000 contract was artificially split into 13 individual contracts, each representing the cars being leased – one of which was for John Bundy.

The Contracts DG said there was “no justifiable objective reason” but for the express aim of circumventing public procurement rules. “Such a breach is to be considered an extremely serious breach… consequently, the ensuing contracts should be terminated.”

Each contract was also in excess of €20,000, which in itself should have instantly necessitated a call for tenders. Only contracts whose value is less than €10,000 can be procured by direct order.

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