A Freedom of Information request for Neville Gafà’s contract has been rejected by the Prime Minister’s office on grounds that he is not high enough on the pay grade to justify its publication.
Mr Gafà’s precise role in the government and his ties with Libya have been shrouded in mystery for the past months, with Joseph Muscat’s office now refusing to hand over a copy of the contract under the Freedom of Information Act.
The official hit the headlines last year after meeting a Libyan warlord singled out by the UN for human rights violations.
After details of the trip were revealed, Mr Gafà claimed to have just bumped into the warlord during his “personal visit” to Libya.
At the time, the Prime Minister’s office denied he was acting in that particular capacity.
Dr Muscat’s office initially rejected Times of Malta’s request for Mr Gafà’s contract on the basis that its details had already been made known to Parliament by the Prime Minister.
When Times of Malta pointed out that the details provided in Parliament did not include his salary or a precise description of his latest role in government, the OPM changed tack by arguing that Mr Gafà’s contract could not be published as it contains personal data.
His employment contract is not regarded as top management
“His employment contract is not regarded as top management and therefore as guided by the data protection unit the contract is not being disclosed in terms of Article 5(3)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act,” the Prime Minister’s office said.
An appeal to the decision has now been filed by Times of Malta.
Dr Muscat only admitted that Mr Gafà was working for his office seven months after the Prime Minister himself employed him on a position of trust basis.
Prior to the admission in Parliament, Dr Muscat had said he was unable to answer questions about Mr Gafà’s job as he did not have the details at hand.
When Dr Muscat was later confronted about the fact that Mr Gafà had been working under his nose for seven months, the Prime Minister said he never felt the need to ask what he is doing.
“What matters to me is that he did his work,” Dr Muscat had retorted.
Mr Gafà has in the past been linked to a medical visa racket, although the only ongoing court case about the matter is a libel suit he filed against The Malta Independent, a case that has been subject to numerous delays.