Former parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri, who lost her seat in the last election, has landed another retainer from the taxpayer coffers, this time from the Planning Authority, The Sunday Times of Malta can confirm.

Last week it was revealed soon after the June election, Dr Schembri was engaged to provide legal services to the Lands Authority, a new government agency set up under her charge a few months earlier.

This paper has now learned that she is benefiting from another direct order issued by another government agency, the Planning Authority, which also fell within her portfolio when she formed part of the government.

A spokesman for the Planning Authority confirmed the agency’s political master until June was awarded a €3,500 monthly contract for three years just two months after she lost her seat in Parliament.

READ: Former junior minister engaged by authority set up under her watch

The spokesman said she was providing legal services to the Executive Council of the Planning Authority, led by Johan Buttigieg, and was also given the role of Data Protection Officer. For her services to the PA Dr Schembri is being paid a retainer of €42,000 a year, excluding VAT.

The direct order specifies a raft of services, which include “attendance, when required to Council meetings, liaison with the Attorney General and the provision of legal advice on any matter that the Executive Council deems necessary”.

“Dr Schembri started providing these services in August 2017, and her engagement was authorised by the Ministry of Finance. The contract is for a three-year period, and she is paid a retainer of €3,500 per month, excluding VAT.”

EDITORIAL: A questionable appointment

It is not yet known whether Dr Schembri’s services are in addition to a contract already in place with another legal firm, Abela Advocates, which is owned by the Labour MP Robert Abela and his wife, Lydia, who is the executive secretary of the Labour Party. The PA pays the firm tens of thousands a year.

Dr Schembri had nominated the Lands Authority board, which is headed by retired Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco, as well as its chief executive, Carlo Mifsud, a former Labour candidate.

A few months later, she was engaged to provide legal services to that authority, through a direct order, together with her former consultant on the Lands Authority reform, Robert Musumeci.

Mr Mifsud has refused to reveal the remuneration being paid to his former boss. Sources close to the authority say that she is being paid “very well” for her work.

Furthermore, Dr Schembri has been appointed to the board of Malta Enterprise by Economy Minister Chris Cardona.

After failing to return to Parliament, Dr Schembri has remained active within the Labour Party, with party leader and PM Joseph Muscat choosing her to be on a team of Labour ‘mentors’ to help women to enter politics.

Before this newspaper went to print yesterday, Dr Schembri had not yet returned any calls or messages seeking her views on whether she feels that her various appointments constitute a serious conflict of interest.

 

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