Disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat is the gift that keeps on giving to himself and his friends.
It took more than a year of FOI requests and an order by the Information and Data Protection Commissioner to make the OPM reveal what your former Kink’s undignified exit from office cost you.
He walked away from Castille with a tidy €120,000 in termination pay, The Shift revealed.
Of course, getting that detail from the government was a lot like prying a particularly stubborn molar out of a patient with lockjaw.
But despite these contortions, Muscat insisted his severance pay was never a secret.
On the contrary, terminal and transitional benefits for Cabinet members who lose their job due to change in government, resignation or dismissal are determined based on a Cabinet memo drafted under a previous PN administration, he said.
He was “entitled to get what others got” — the subtext being that, if you’re unhappy with the amount, you should blame the PN for yet another ‘legacy’ issue.
But don’t go chasing this ball too far yet.
It’s wise to remember that when Muscat points his finger at something, he wants you to look away from something else.
When The Shift worked out that the longer-serving Lawrence Gonzi received €72,901 gross (€47,386 after taxes) but Muscat got €120,000 gross ( €78,495.40 net), the story changed.
‘Le le le…. you just misunderstood us!’
According to the OPM, Muscat’s benefits were calculated all the way back to his time as Opposition Leader. See? It’s simple.
But those numbers don’t add up, either. Even when you add the Opposition years, he should have received some €60,000 — not €120,000. At least, according to the oft-cited Cabinet memo.
Quick, throw out another diversion!
Muscat told the world via Facebook that not only was he not overpaid, but he selflessly renounced his transitional allowance even though he didn’t have to. According to him, he actually cost you less than what he was entitled to claim, not more.
As you might have expected from the pattern so far, he was being careless with the truth again.
According to that same PN Cabinet memo on termination pay for ministers, Muscat wasn’t eligible to receive the transitional allowance during his first year out of power. And anyway, it stops once an ex government minister gets a job.
The former prime minister is currently working as some sort of consultant. At least, that’s what he said when asked to justify the sudden €191,000 increase in his bank balance right after he left office.
And now we’ve finally reached the detail he wanted us to look away from all along.
The truth was revealed — perhaps accidentally — by Robert Abela in response to a parliamentary question in June 2020.
Abela said, “Terminal benefits for the former prime minister were based on a scheme, introduced in 2004 and amended in 2018 and 2019.”
Who amended them?
Can I get a drum roll please….?
You guessed it. Joseph Muscat.
He changed the policy on terminal benefits for those occupying Cabinet positions right before he was turfed from office.
The Shift asked the disgraced former prime minister to explain exactly how he changed the formula, and why he walked away with twice as much cash as it seems he was entitled to. And that’s when he went silent. I’m sure we’ll hear back from him eventually. Perhaps in the dock.
It’s almost as though they’re making it up as they go along.
Muscat must have torn a page from Edward Scicluna’s handbook.
The professor arranged a lucrative post-parliament package for himself, too. You’ll recall that Central Bank Governor Mario Vella earned €89,000 per year, a rate of remuneration that his contract said would remain the same for the full five year term. Scicluna bumped it up to €100,000 in a surprise pay raise — and then took the guy’s job.
Of course, the actual costs were higher because something had to be done for the man he replaced. And so the government dreamed up the title of Special Commissioner for Economic, Financial and Trade Relations with the UK and appointed the recently jobless Vella with the same €100,000 salary.
And what of Muscat’s other merry men? Don’t worry. The Kink took care of them, too.
He was a busy beaver in those final egg throwing days of his reign, when protests filled the streets each night and pots and pans were pounded outside parliament.
Somehow, during that strange transitional period when he’d resigned as prime minister but hadn’t yet managed to leave, he found time to spare a thought for future Cabinet ministers — and to bump up the going away present that he himself would receive.
Two weeks after Konrad Mizzi’s forced resignation, Muscat ordered Malta Tourism Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg to sign a €90,000 consultancy contract that would ensure the Panama Papers minister could dine on champagne and caviar even if he may not have a Dubai bank account courtesy of Nexia BT.
And he gave his Azerbaijan travel buddy Kurt Farrugia a nice new job as head of Malta Enterprise, at a cost to taxpayers of €130,000 per year. That salary will rise faster than a property bubble, topping out at €180,000 during the nine year contract. But what if Kurt doesn’t like the work? He’ll get a tax-free €130,000 if he decides to quit, and €250,000 if you fire him.
As for what the rest of the Cabinet-level retirees received at taxpayer expense, the details of the calculations — and the payouts — remain a carefully guarded secret.
It isn’t enough to rob the country blind while in office. They have to keep picking the public pocket once they’re gone, too.