An investigation into allegations that a PN official sought to undermine a candidate’s electoral hopes at the behest of a “fat cat” has recommended the party adopt a revolving door policy and whistleblower protection.
The recommendations of the party’s ethics commission, headed by Joseph Pirotta, came in the light of claims that former party official Ray Bezzina conspired during an encounter with an unnamed ‘fat cat’ to torpedo the candidacy of Albert Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, who is the mayor of St Julian’s, claimed he was sidelined during the March election campaign, possibly because of that ‘fat cat’ meeting.
Sources familiar with the investigation’s findings confirmed that Buttigieg submitted an affidavit regarding the allegations, but declined to name the nationalist official, understood to be Bezzina, or the “fat cat”.
Bezzina has vehemently denied these allegations. PN leader Bernard Grech and general secretary Michael Piccinino also denied the existence of a plot to oust any particular candidate.
Piccinino confirmed to the commission that some candidates were more exposed than others because of the PN’s electoral strategy.
The commission noted that while Buttigieg was virtually unexposed during the campaign, there was no evidence to suggest this was done on purpose to sideline him.
Further, the commission said that, given the lack of evidence provided by Buttigieg to support his claims, it was unwise for him to publicly state his claims in a Malta weather article.
Perceptions of the ‘fat cat’ may have been reinforced
The commission also questioned Bezzina’s wisdom to join db Group just after stepping down as Grech’s right-hand man following the party’s election defeat.
The move, the commission said, could have reinforced perceptions, justified or not, that senior PN officials were close to the “big cats.”
In light of the findings, the commission recommended that the PN adopt a clear revolving door policy for senior officials, to prevent similar situations from happening again.
He also called on the party to introduce provisions to encourage whistleblowers to substantiate their claims, while providing them with the appropriate protection. The commission noted that it had already proposed the introduction of such a provision as part of an overhaul of the party’s code of ethics.
Buttigieg said he welcomed the report and its recommendations.
“I will continue to work for the PN and as Mayor of St Julian’s, and I will be a strong voice for the environment, clean politics and the common good,” he said.
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