Fitch is given €40,000 annual direct order
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Fitch is given €40,000 annual direct order

Former tourism minister taps passport fund

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna

Fitch credit ratings agency gets €40,000 a year from public coffers through a direct order issued by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.

Asked recently to say what the government was paying international credit rating agencies, Prof. Scicluna would not give details but said payments were being made to four agencies: Fitch, Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s and DBRS. It is not known what the payments, amounting to over €230,000 a year, are for.

So far, the Finance Ministry has only said what Fitch, one of the most reputable international credit rating firms, receives ­– €80,000 over two years.

International credit rating agencies issue regular assessments on the economic performance of countries, banks and other institutions following thorough independent analyses. Such ratings are deemed crucial by economists and financial institutions when evaluating a country or an institution’s standing.

Information published recently in The Malta Government Gazette shows that various government departments continued to dish out direct orders in the second half of last year.

Read: Payments to credit rating agencies soar to €230,000

The Finance Ministry, whose green light is needed before ministries and government entities award contracts without a call for tenders, spent €2.2 million in direct orders.

The largest disbursement, exceeding €2 million, went to Oliver Wyman, an international consultancy firm which assists the government in dealing with money-laundering legislation.

Malta has been under the international radar amid suspicion and allegations of money-laundering activities including those connected to kickbacks on the sale of passports to gaming operators, mafia infiltrations and foreign banks.

Former tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis has landed another government direct order, this time from the National Development Social Fund, which receives proceeds from the sale of passports.

Jointly with lawyer Veronique Dalli, Dr Zammit Lewis was hand-picked to provide legal services to the fund under a €40,000 direct order.

Since losing his Cabinet post in 2017, Dr Zammit Lewis has received government contracts through direct orders originating, among others, from the Office of the Prime Minister, Identity Malta, the Lands Authority, the Energy Ministry and, now, the passport fund.

Some of the latest direct orders

Entity Direct Order Task Value
Malta Enterprise Joseph Mangion Promotion in Middle East €49,500
Malta Enterprise Nadia Pace (The Pace Company) Investment promotion €36,000 +success fee
Malta Enterprise Leslie Skipper Comm. consultant €37,000
Malta Enterprise Cory Greenland (Greenland services) Consultancy €6,000
Malta Enterprise DF Advocates Planning on production of veterinary products €9,600
Malta Enterprise Mifsud Bonnici Advocates Legal consultancy €10,000
Malta Enterprise Nat. Development Philo Meli Consultant €6,000
Social Fund Edward Zammit Lewis Legal services €38,135
Planning Authority Halo Pictures Video clips €9,500
Planning Authority Striped Sox Ltd PR consultancy €18,000
Planning Authority Halo Pictures Video clips €9,550
Planning Authority Joshua Zammit (Novargo Ltd) Research €8,500
Planning Authority Luna Jets Travel of board member €8,750
MITA Sharp Shoot Media Sponsorship in TV drama €5,250
MITA Chrysander Agius Radio endorsement €8,000
Finance Ministry Ikona Artworks Pre-Budget campaign 10,650
Finance Ministry Fitch Ratings (over two years) Credit rating €80,000
Finance Ministry Oliver Wyman Support on anti-money laundering strategy €2,275,000

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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