White flag fraud claims: Herrera says he was not defrauded

White flag fraud claims: Herrera says he was not defrauded

Environment Minister insists no public funds were handed over to NGO from his ministry

Environment Minister Jose' Herrera on Wednesday admitted he had not run any due diligence on a beach clean-up NGO now facing allegations of fraud, but he insisted it had not received any public financing from his ministry. 

The clean-up project has come under fire after media reports that local companies had sponsored the White Flag “plastic free” beaches to the tune of some €25,000 each with nothing to show for it.

According to the reports, published on The Shift, the project has been sponsored by the private sector and some government ministries.

Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi, the shadow environment minister, has also filed a Parliamentary question asking Dr Herrera how much taxpayers’ money had been given to the White Flag beach clean-up project.

Asked about this on Wednesday, Dr Herrera told Times of Malta he had communicated with the organisation following the media reports and had been informed that they were evaluating their legal options on the matter.

He said that his ministry had not entered into any contractual obligations with the White Flag project, but had endorsed “the concept” of clearing beaches of plastic.

Dr Herrera said he attended repeated White Flag ceremonies and events in recent months, and he had become “obsessed” with the idea of clearing plastic from beaches. But no funds were disbursed from his ministry to White Flag International.

He did not comment on whether any other ministries or government departments had handed over public funds to the organisation.

Asked whether he had done any due diligence on the organisation prior to endorsing the clean-up project, Dr Herrera said he had not, but added that, in his defence, he would endorse anyone who wanted to clear plastic away from the island’s beaches.

According to the media reports, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which the White Flag organisation claims is one of its “partners,” is set to sue the organisation for “slander”.

The reports quote the Monoco foundation insisting it has not had any kind of cooperation with the project for several years.

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