Claims that Cabinet salaries had been surreptitiously doubled were “absolutely baseless”, according to Parliament’s ethics watchdog.
George Hyzler, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, on Friday issued his finds into media reports, and subsequent media posts, which implied that salaries for junior ministers had been secretly increased.
Back in August, Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi had taken to Facebook, writing that parliamentary secretaries had their salaries “doubled by stealth” between 2017 and 2018.
He drew that conclusion after The Shift News delved into cabinet members’ declarations of assets and noted how parliamentary secretaries' declared income of €42,000 in 2017 rose to €60,796 the following year.
Dr Hyzler had been asked to investigate the claims by former election candidate Arnold Cassola. He concluded that the journalist and the MP's comments were based on figures representing half a year, when the parliamentary secretaries actually took up office.
Dr Hyzler said parliamentary secretaries were receiving a duty allowance which was much less than their predecessors’ but still received 6% more when comparing 2019 to the 2013 figures. He said this was not a substantial increase when considering that it was spread over a period of six years.
Ministers and parliamentary secretaries also benefit from a second car allowance of €7,000 per year. However, this had been in place since 2003 and the amount of €7,000 was set in 2008, a 2011 report by the auditor general indicated.
The mechanism on how salaries are paid out to parliamentary secretaries had not been changed and that these remained pegged with Scale 1 of the salary scales, at 105%, he said.
While the government statement was incorrect to claim that ministers’ salaries are exactly the same as they were in 2013, this was due to inattention rather than a deliberate attempt to deceive and was corrected "immediately".
He therefore concluded that there was no breach in rules or ethical standards.
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