The Planning Authority’s executive chairman, Johann Buttigieg has a financial package worth more than €100,000 a year, making him one of Malta’s highest paid public officers, the Times of Malta has learnt.

The planning watchdog has refused several requests to reveal the employment contract of its highest officer. An application filed under the Freedom of Information Act was also rejected by the regulator, but the Data Protection Commissioner ordered it to make the information available, deeming it of public interest.

A case officer on a salary below €35,000 until 2013, Mr Buttigieg saw his fortunes change dramatically soon after Labour was returned to power that year.

After first being informally appointed as the Environment Minister’s representative at the Planning Authority, in June 2013 he was officially appointed chief executive of the then Malta Environment and Planning Authority through a direct appointment. He got a salary of €60,000 and a 15 per cent performance bonus.

However, Mr Buttigieg’s contract, signed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, was changed in April 2016, pushing his income significantly upwards, keeping the same responsibilities under a different designation.

This was a private writing between two parties

As the PA’s new executive chairman, his contract, signed by then parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri, entitled Mr Buttigieg to a salary of €83,000 a year and a €7,000 car allowance.

He is also entitled to a 15 per cent performance bonus yearly, aside from a full-time driver, a fully expensed mobile phone and international health insurance covering himself and the members of his immediate family.

His total package is now worth more than €102,000 a year.

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The contract includes a clause that entitles Mr Buttigieg’s heirs to the equivalent of two years of his salary in case of his death, either due to natural or accidental causes unrelated to his work.

When considering the request for a copy of the contract, the PA’s data protection officer was against publication, arguing “this was a private writing between two parties”.

However, the Data Protection Commissioner disagreed, ordering that the contract be made public, as it was “attached to a headship position of an office which is paid by public funds”.

Commissioner Saviour Cachia insisted that Mr Buttigieg’s position brought with it a degree of accountability, “which is an element to ensure transparency necessary in a democratic society”.

Dr Schembri, who signed Mr Buttigieg’s latest contract, was engaged by him to provide legal services to his executive council and to act as the authority’s data protection officer just a few weeks after she failed to be re-elected to Parliament.

She receives €3,500 a month for her services.

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