The government has rejected a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to list the perks and roles, if any, still being enjoyed by former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle, as the Principal Permanent Secretary’s Office said it did not have any documents related to such benefits.
The Shift asked whether the Muscats were still enjoying any benefits, such as cars, offices, and consultancies, given by any ministry since Prime Minister Robert Abela took the helm, and what they were costing taxpayers.
The FOI request also asked whether the government was making any contribution towards any charities or causes in which the Muscats were involved.
The reply was sent after the 20-working day deadline set in the law, only to state that the office “does not hold such a document in its general records”.
Muscat resigned in January following two months of protests after top officials in his administration were implicated in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Abela’s government has not distanced itself from Muscat. Earlier this month, he even appeared to be consulting him on the economic recovery post-COVID.
The Prime Minister said Muscat wasn’t being paid for this advice, but The Shift received no answer on whether his predecessor and his wife were being sustained with any other perks.
Muscat’s economic advice and predictions also came in the form of a nine-page report which he presented to the government. Eyebrows were raised at the header of the report, which read ‘compiled by The Office of Dr Joseph Muscat’.
President George Vella also refused to publish the contents of Muscat’s resignation letter arguing that “the public interest that is served by non-disclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
Vella’s office quoted a rarely used exemption that states that the release of this letter would “have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of a public authority,” which in this case refers to the government.
On Sunday, The Shift revealed that Muscat is a member of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, an Azerbaijani government-funded political think tank and lobby group aimed at expanding Azerbaijani culture and soft influence around the world, including through lobbying efforts and ‘caviar diplomacy’.