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Updated: ITS executive director Henry Mifsud 'suspends himself' pending investigation; PN reacts

Duncan Barry Wednesday, 25 March 2015, 12:24 Last update: about 10 years ago

Henry Mifsud, executive director at ITS, has suspended himself from his duties pending an investigation into alleged irregularities, the Tourism Ministry said today.

This followed a story uploaded earlier on this portal which quoted sources at the Institute for Tourism Studies confirming with The Malta Independent today that Mr Mifsud is out on ‘long leave’.

This suspension comes after claims of irregularities were published by blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. Newsbook also reported yesterday that Mr Mifsud had an argument at the tourism ministry. It is not yet clear if the argument ensued between him and Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis.

Sources who approached this newsroom said that Mr Mifsud was not seen at the institute for the past few days.

This newsroom tried to reach him by e-mail but we were met with an automatic reply which read: ‘Thanks for your e-mail. I am out of the office and may not have access to email at all times. If you require anything urgent regarding ITS please contact the institute.’ Attempts to contact him on his cell phone proved futile.

Last week, this newsroom sent questions to the minister – after the Opposition issued a statement raising its concern over the issue - but got no reply. The ministry instead sent a statement to the media replying to the PN’s statement but did not make any reference to Mr Mifsud’s case.

When contacted last week, Mr Mifsud categorically denied the allegations levelled against him but stopped at that.

In a statement, the PN had said that it is concerned over the fact that no action has been taken over the “mismanagement of the Institute of Tourism Studies” despite the many reports which surfaced recently made by students and their parents on the case involving the executive director of ITS. Allegations made in Mr Mifsud’s confrontation include that he makes the college chefs prepare food for his personal parties.

The litany of complaints were posted beneath the blogger’s post by individuals who claimed they are chefs at ITS.

The PN also noted that the ingredients used for private parties organised by Mr Mifsud were paid for by the institute. Other posts after the allegations surfaced read that Mr Mifsud retaliated by harassing lecturers and chefs with car-searches and forcing them to sign declarations.

The claims did not stop there. This week fresh allegations surfaced that he had been made to resign from his post of organising functions tied to a bank he worked for after he was found out by the bank to have collected bottles of spirits of a party financed by the bank but kept the bottles in his possession.

The Malta Independent this morning sent questions to the ministry, which again preferred to issue a statement rather than to reply to them directly. In its statement, the Tourism Ministry said that it had taken all the necessary steps to start investigating the allegations made about Mr Mifsud. The ministry's permanent secretary wrote to the Internal Audit and Investigations Department to look into the matter.

Mr Mifsud, who is denying the claims, requested that he is suspended while the investigation is taking place, a request that was accepted.

In the meantime, the ITS board of governors appoited Pierre Fenech to act as executive director to ensure that the institute's operations continue without a hitch. Mr Fenech is also executive director at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.

PN says tourism minister took action following media pressure 

In a news conference held outside the ITS premises this afternoon, PN MP Antoine Borg said that the tourism minister should not have waited for pressure to be made by the media for him to kick-start an investigation into claims made against Mr Mifsud.

He noted that the government issued a statement a few minutes after the PN issued a call to the media to attend to a news conference tied to the issue which read that the ministry has taken the necessary action and suspended Mr Mifsud pending further investigations.

Mr Borg said that the ministry reacted only after it realised that the PN was to hold a news conference on the matter.

He said that ITS plays a vital role in Malta’s tourism sector and therefore should be given the same importance as other educational institutions.

Mr Borg referred to claims made against Mr Mifsud – from parents and students – and said that it is unacceptable for Mr Mifsud to have breached all procurement procedures and organised a private reception at the same hotel one of his son’s works at. He said it was ironic for Mr Mifsud to have allegedly ordered car searches of students to verify whether anything was stolen from ITS when Mr Mifsud was engaging in abuses himself.

When it was pointed out by this newsroom to Mr Borg that Mr Mifsud categorically denied with our newsroom the allegations levelled against him, Mr Borg replied: “Mr Mifsud denied a lot of things but now it emerges that an investigation on his wrongdoings has kick-started.”

 

 

 

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