Broadcasting Minister Carmelo Abela won’t remove former PBS chairperson Tonio Portughese from the Employment Relations Board in light of a tribunal decision which ruled the sacking of John Bundy as CEO of the national broadcaster was unfair.
“I appointed him as chairperson of the Employment Relations Board before this sentence was issued,” Abela told Lovin Malta. “Although he had chaired PBS, I imagine its board of directors would have taken decisions collectively, and we shouldn’t point our fingers at just one person.”
“I understand that decisions were taken by the whole board. I still need to read the sentence in detail but if further steps must be taken or if I need to give direction or indications, I’ll do so without fear. However, so far it doesn’t seem like there needs to be any action against him.”
A few weeks ago, Abela appointed Portughese as chairperson of the Employment Relations Board, a government board in charge of consulting unions and other stakeholders for issues related to work conditions and industrial relations.
However, yesterday an industrial tribunal ruled that the PBS board, which Portughese chaired between 2013 and 2020, acted unfairly when sacking Bundy for breaching procurement rules when leasing a set of new cars.
It therefore ordered PBS to pay Bundy €226,500.
Besides Portughese, the board also included Albert Marshall, Edward Cassar Delia, Adriana Zarb Adami, Paul Vella, Claire Bonello, Frank Portelli, and Tony Cassar Darien.
Out of these members, only Marshall and Zarb Adami remain on the board.
The tribunal said PBS made Bundy bear responsibility for an administrative irregularity that other high-ranking officials had a part to play in, and questioned how it could have sacked him before even concluding an investigation.
In his testimony, Bundy also revealed how the European Broadcasting Union had informed him that Portughese had agreed that PBS should fork out the participation costs for six other countries at 2016 Junior Eurovision Song Contest, which Malta hosted.
Bundy said he tried to get Malta out of this deal and managed to scrap it for two countries, but ended up footing the bill for the other four – at a cost of €24,000 for the national broadcaster.
Asked whether he’ll investigate this claim, Abela said he has no doubt the new PBS board, which he appointed last September, will discuss the Bundy sentence.
“I’d rather look to the future. With regards to whether there should be some sort of investigation into other things, I imagine the board will discuss the sentence and the findings that led to this decision.”