Prime Minister Robert Abela and his chief spokesman Matthew Carbone are refusing to explain how Nigel Vella, a person of trust appointed in the Prime Minister’s secretariat, is also serving as a policy consultant at the Gozo Ministry and potentially drawing two different salaries paid by taxpayers.
Apart from the two separate government jobs, Vella was also appointed to serve as a director on the Malta Digital Innovation Authority – another government entity. From this position, Vella is also drawing a director’s honoraria, pushing further his annual income funded by taxpayers to a potential €90,000 a year.
Attempts by The Shift to be given an explanation on how Vella, until 2017 the Labour Party’s spokesman, is listed as having three full time government jobs, proved unsuccessful as the Prime Minister’s Office ignored questions despite repeated reminders.
Even Vella, who according to one of his job descriptions, serves as the Deputy Head of Government Communications at the OPM, did not offer an explanation to The Shift’s questions.
Listing his consultants in parliament, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri said Vella is serving as his policy consultant on strategy and communications. For this job, normally carried on a full time basis, Vella is paid according to the government’s salary scale 3, which stands at €40,183 a year, excluding perks.
At the same time, Vella was appointed by Prime Minister Robert Abela as his Deputy Head of Communications on a full time basis. His salary scale at the OPM is not known, although this would normally be in the higher scales of the government salary structure, carrying a basic pay of more than €35,000.
The post at the OPM given to Vella is not listed in the manual issued by Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar listing members of the Prime Minister’s secretariat and which positions are to be filled.
According to the manual, the Prime Minister is entitled to have a Head of Government Communications on salary scale 3. The post is filled by former Labour reporter Matthew Carbone. No Deputy Head position is listed – Vella’s post.
Vella, was originally put on the government’s payroll by disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as part of his private secretariat. He is also considered to be very close to former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, currently under police investigation.
Recently, Vella hit the headlines after he was repeatedly admonished by the board of the public inquiry looking into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. He was warned, “We’re troubled by your lack of credibility”.
Despite being present when journalists were locked in the Prime Minister’s Office by Labour thugs in December 2019, Vella said he could not remember anything.
“Why are you paid if you gave no input? How is it possible that you were between four walls, and you heard nothing?” the Head of the public inquiry board Michael Mallia asked.