Economy Minister Chris Cardona spent more than €466,680 on official trips abroad in five years, figures tabled in Parliament this week show.
Giving a breakdown of the costs of trips in reply to a question by Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg, Dr Cardona said he travelled abroad on more than 100 official visits since taking office in 2013, going overseas about twice a month, in some cases even more.
According to the figures, Dr Cardona’s most expensive trip last year was between November 12 and 16, travelling to Dubai for the 2017 Private Wealth Institute Annual Summit
The four-day trip cost taxpayers €13,181 and covered the costs for the minister, his chief of staff and an unnamed “adviser”.
No other details were supplied.
Eight days in Bali in December 2013
Another trip to Dubai in 2015 had sparked controversy after the National Audit Office found that Dr Cardona and two top aides had spent €758 on drinks, including €318 from a hotel mini-bar.
The Auditor General had concluded that the bill was “not related to official business” but was still claimed as travel expenses. It also discovered that out of 10 official and ministerial trips, nine had anomalies in the expenses listed.
The ministry had justified the mini-bar bill, which was subsequently refunded by the minister’s aide, Mario Azzopardi, by saying that drinks in Dubai were “expensive”.
The trip in question had cost €12,405, according to the information given in Parliament.
The Dubai trips, however, were not the most expensive official visits as the ministry spent €37,918 for eight days in Bali in December 2013.
The minister, together with his permanent secretary, a communications coordinator, a senior manager and the minister’s personal assistant travelled to Bali to attend the World Trade Organisation Ninth Ministerial Conference. The names of the staff accompanying the minister were not given.
Other overseas trips that cost taxpayers over €5,000 each included visits to St Petersburg, Rome, Stockholm, Germany, the Netherlands, Brussels, Cologne, the Middle East, China, Riga, Oman, Monaco, Ukraine, Kosovo, Poland, London and Buenos Aires.