The Prime Minister has engaged more advisers than permitted under the Cabinet’s own code of ethics, with taxpayers having to fork out more than €700,000 a year to employ them all.

The code allows the Office of the Prime Minister to take on a maximum of eight advisers, yet Joseph Muscat makes use of a total of 11 advisers and five special envoys with an advisory role.

Many of these people are former Labour politicians who failed to make it to Parliament or Labour MPs who have not been given a Cabinet post, as well as former PN activists who switched sides to Labour before its 2013 return to power.

According to a list of advisers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, they include former deputy prime minister Louis Grech, former ministers Manuel Mallia and Alex Sceberras Trigona, former parliamentary secretaries Stefan Buontempo and Deborah Schembri, former Labour MP Maria Camilleri and Labour converts Cyrus Engerer and Marisa Micallef.

The bill for their remuneration, footed by taxpayers, amounts to nearly three quarters of a million euros a year.

A new version of the ministerial code of ethics, launched by Cabinet Secretary Mario Cutajar in June 2015, lays down rules on the number of consultants and advisers each ministry is allowed to engage and how they should be paid for their services.

According to Annex II of the Manual of Cabinet Procedures, “the Office of the Prime Minister is entitled to engage eight consultants”. The code is silent on the number of envoys that may be recruited, but those at the OPM also have an advisory capacity.

Questions about this apparent anomaly were sent to the Cabinet Secretary and the PM’s spokesman but neither of them replied.

When launching the latest code of ethics, Cabinet Secretary Mario Cutajar had declared that “the new code assures more transparency, good governance and accountability”. According to the code, it is the Prime Minister himself, together with the Cabinet Secretary, who are responsible for making sure it is followed.

This apparently blatant breach of the rules raises questions over the standard of governance that is being observed by the OPM and how easy it would be for the Prime Minister to keep other members of the Cabinet in check.

Apart from the politically appointed advisers, whose lucrative contracts for “general advisory roles” makes their output difficult to benchmark, other appointments are connected to the adviser’s formal role.

This is the case with University of Malta Rector Alfred Vella, whose appointment earns him €50,000 over and above his remuneration package as rector.

The same used to happen under the previous administration when Juanito Camilleri headed the University.

Joseph Muscat’s advisers

Adviser Task Financial package
Prof. David Attard For services to be rendered to OPM €17,405
Prof. Alfred Vella For services to be rendered to OPM €47,920
Dr Peter Gatt Science adviser €38,440
Mario Borg Policy adviser on instructions by OPM €44,797
Dr Stefan Buontempo For services to be rendered to OPM €40,189
Dr Charmaine Cherrett Legal adviser €21,687
Marisa Micallef According to OPM instructions €38,735
Dr Alex Sciberras Legal adviser €60,393
Dr Deborah Schembri For services to be rendered to OPM €60,654
Dr Manuel Mallia For services to be rendered to OPM €55,995
Louis Grech Senior adviser and special envoy €59,500

Joseph Muscat’s Special Envoys

Special Envoy Task Financial package
Dr Alex Sceberras Trigona According to unspecified instructions of OPM €55,250*
Joseph Zammit Tabona According to unspecified instructions of OPM €37,920*
Maria Camilleri Envoy for Arab countries €1,200^
Cyrus Engerer Envoy for EU affairs €103,715*
Andrey Vagnerovich Ogandzhanyants Envoy for digital economy Free

*excluding other allowances/reimbursements
^renounced salary and received only €100 a month to cover expenses

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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