Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has explained why he retained Franco Debono as his parliamentary assistant, saying the rowdy backbencher had also made some contribution.
“These are things I decide according to circumstances and how things develop,” Dr Gonzi replied when asked why Dr Debono had kept his €7,000 salary as a parliamentary assistant, despite having stopped reporting to work and frequently embarrassing the Prime Minister, contrary to his code of ethics.
“Dr Debono contributed in certain aspects. He also did some things which I absolutely disagree with but in life you have to look forward.
“I think that, from all the experiences we’ve gone through, good and bad, what is important is to do the best thing for the country and that is what I am trying to do.”
Dr Debono was assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister in March 2010 when Dr Gonzi linked eight backbenchers to various ministries to spread the workload and keep everyone involved in government.
Their code of ethics prevents them from embarrassing their ministry, something Dr Debono has done regularly since January, when he declared he had lost confidence in the Prime Minister and challenged him to either resign or call an election.
Parliamentary assistants get €6,600 annually over and above their €19,100 honorarium as MPs.
In Dr Debono’s case, he also receives an additional €6,600 for his job as chairman of a parliamentary committee (the House Committee for the Consolidation and Recodification of Laws), bringing his income up to €32,300.
While Dr Debono holds regular sessions of his parliamentary committee, he has, by his own admission, stopped reporting to work as parliamentary assistant. In November, when he was highly critical of Transport Minister Austin Gatt’s handling of the public transport reform, Dr Debono had said he had not reported to his desk in months.
Since then, Dr Debono has acted more as Dr Gonzi’s nemesis in Parliament than his assistant.
When he was contacted by The Sunday Times last week, Dr Debono said as parliamentary assistant he worked hard to finish his draft law on party financing, the main task he was given.
He filed the party financing law in January as a Private Member’s Bill.
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