Education Minister pretends not to know why he shouldn’t use his private email for work matters

Published: December 9, 2016 at 8:18pm

Evarist Bartolo, the Education Minister, pretends not to know why he really should not use his private Hotmail address for work-related matters, rather than his government email address.

“There’s no rule about it,” he says. Who does he think he’s fooling? There’s doesn’t have to be a rule about it. Government officials who avoid using their email addresses do so intentionally, because they don’t want those emails to be traced and read by others.

All emails go through the government server and are technically property of the government of Malta, as the employer, which like all employers has free and unencumbered access to its employees’ email correspondence under the law. Any government or state-authority inquiry can gain access to any of those emails without the need for a court order. They are immediately available.

Emails sent via Hotmail and Gmail are, however, not available to any authorities at all. They do not go through the government server and not accessible to the government of Malta. The police, during an investigation, can only gain access to them with the cooperation of the investigated person, who has to relinquish his password. And because torture is not permissible in countries that are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, nobody relinquishes his password details to the police.

The only reason the police have Evarist Bartolo’s emails sent via Hotmail is because they were emails to Philip Rizzo, his erstwhile appointee, who printed them out and passed them on for investigation.

The answer as to whether Evarist Bartolo knew why he shouldn’t have used Hotmail is in the fact that he did. He used his Hotmail address for exchanges with Rizzo about the corruption of his vote-canvasser, who he appointed chief of procurement over a budget of millions at the schools foundation. If those exchanges were not about corruption, he would have used his address.

This tells us that Evarist Bartolo has almost certainly been using his Hotmail address for all kinds of other correspondence that he didn’t want to go through his government address. If the police could waterboard him for his password (and if the police force were in any way functional), they would have a field day.