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Robert Abela’s chief of staff gets €14,000 salary top up through second job

Prime Minister Robert Abela's chief of staff retains chairman role at JobsPlus, topping up his salary with another €14,000.

Clyde Caruana, the new chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, is topping up his financial package of over €50,000 a year with an additional €14,000 annually, by retaining his role as non-executive chairman of JobsPlus.

Prior to his appointment as the Prime Minister’s most trusted aide last January, Caruana was CEO and chairman of JobsPlus, which is tasked with aiding job seekers find employment.

When he took up his new role at the OPM, Caruana appointed a close colleague as CEO in his stead, while keeping his role as chairman in a non-executive capacity with an extra remuneration of €14,000 a year. This was confirmed by Caruana in response to questions by The Shift.

The OPM’s chief of staff, previously occupied by the now-disgraced Keith Schembri, is a 24/7 job as one of the most demanding jobs at Castille.

Yet Caruana seems to be able to find the time to also steer Jobsplus, the government’s agency responsible for hundreds of job placements, including with various government departments and agencies, on top of his busy OPM schedule.

When Schembri was testifying in court recently in relation to investigations on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, he justified his meeting with middleman Melvin Theuma as a job matter. Schembri said in court that Castille receives up to 60 job requests per day – a matter that should not be handled by the Office of the Prime Minister, as it amounts to vote buying using public funds.

It may explain why Caruana was considered suitable for the role, and why he retained his post at JobsPlus despite a potential conflict of interest.

Caruana, relatively unknown until 2013, was made chairman of the Agency that was called the Employment and Training Corporation at the time. He was only  29.

He was one of the most ardent supporters of the Labour Party’s change in labour policy with regards to the employment of third country nationals. Loosening strict policy on the employment of third country nationals, that resulted in the exploitation of cheap labour as thousands came to Malta, mostly from Asian countries.

This contributed significantly to a rapid increase in the country’s population and a distortion of the labour market.

Philip Rizzo, the ETC’s former CEO under Joseph Muscat, had said in an interview with The Times of Malta that Caruana had asked him to check the political orientation of ETC employees listed for a promotion before giving his approval. Rizzo, who said he resigned due to corruption, described Caruana as a “theorist”.

Until 2013, when the Labour Party gained power, members of ministerial private secretariats and senior civil servants, including permanent secretaries, were not allowed to receive extra remuneration from government Boards. If appointed, their honoraria were forfeited as their role was considered part of their official position within the government/civil service.

Under the Labour administration, Boards and Agencies were filled with members of private secretariats and ‘friendly’ civil servants who started receiving the honoraria over and above their government salaries and perks.

In 2017, Mario Cutajar, the Principal Permanent Secretary who is entrusted with discipline among government employees, had a second job, boosting his annual income by a further €19,000.

Although Cutajar’s appointment was harshly criticised, especially among the senior levels of the civil service because of a possible conflict of interest, Prime Minister Robert Abela did not stop it. Instead, the idea was adopted for his own chief of staff.

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