Former Labour Party spokesman Nigel Vella has been given a permanent job at Malta Enterprise – the state entity responsible for foreign direct investment – though he’s never spent a single day at work, according to documentary evidence acquired by The Shift.
Vella was employed in a ‘temporary’ position of trust at the Office of the Prime Minister until last February, when he resigned. He was then immediately registered as a full time, permanent employee of Malta Enterprise in the role of coordinator at Business First. His former boss at the OPM, Kurt Farrugia, was given a similar deal and now heads Malta Enterprise.
On his first day as a Malta Enterprise employee, Vella was granted permission to take indefinite unpaid leave to hop onto another “position of trust” – as policy consultant at the Home Affairs Ministry.
This role pays Vella at least €20,000 more than his Malta Enterprise salary would, but also guarantees that he can return to his permanent taxpayer-funded role at Malta Enterprise whenever he wants to, or should there be a change of government, meaning he’d lose his “position of trust”.
This is the latest in a series of scandals that have seen Labour Party loyalists given plum positions within government institutions and agencies. Vella himself has already been awarded a number of lucrative posts, both as a “person of trust” and as a board director.
Earlier this year, The Shift revealed that Vella, the Labour Party’s official spokesman up to 2017, was given two separate “positions of trust” by the government apart from becoming a director on the board of another state entirety – Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA).
Through these publicly paid positions – Deputy Head of Communications at the OPM, consultant at the Gozo Ministry on strategic communications and the MDIA directorship – Vella was costing taxpayers over €60,000 a year.
An investigation by The Shift has now discovered that Vella has also managed to insure himself against the risk of losing his government salaries should there be a change in government by securing the Malta Enterprise role, as a full time, permanent ‘government’ employee.
The Shift is informed that Vella was given the €40,000 job at Malta Enterprise on 3 February, to act as a Coordinator of its Business First section.
However, when asked whether Vella is in fact doing his job at Malta Enterprise, CEO Kurt Farrugia, himself a former spokesman of disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, confirmed that Vella has not effectively started working at Malta Enterprise, even though he’s now established on the state entity’s books as a permanent employee.
“Mr Vella is on ME books but has availed himself of unpaid leave according to the Manual of Resourcing Policies & Procedures published by the government of Malta as from 3 February, 2021,” Farrugia said.
This means that Farrugia’s approval of Vella’s unpaid leave was given on the same day that Vella was recruited into his permanent position.
Farrugia was Vella’s boss at Castille when the latter worked in disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s communications office.
Asked to explain why Vella was given a position at Malta Enterprise when he hadn’t spent a single day at his desk, and to explain whether Vella’s position was necessary for the organisation given the role is still not being carried out, Malta Enterprise told The Shift that it had nothing to add to its original reply.
According to Malta Enterprise, Vella was recruited through ‘normal’ procedures and sat for an interview after applying for the job.
According to Vella’s contract with Malta Enterprise, seen by The Shift, his employment only comes to an end when he reaches pensionable age. Vella starts with a salary of €30,370 a year which increases annually, and he is entitled to a communication allowance of €280 and for a performance bonus which could push his financial package up to some €40,000 annually.
Vella’s employment is also subject to a probation period of 12 months, although it’s not known how this is to be calculated and approved given he’s never actually turned up for work.
In the meantime, Vella’s new position of trust contract with the Home Affairs Ministry was signed in April 2021 to serve as a policy consultant.
In this role, Vella is tasked with “monitoring and advising on the disciplinary forces as per the ministry’s portfolio, including all the related project management for the implementation of the budgetary measures and the electoral manifesto”.
On top of his €40,000 basic salary, his new position of trust comes with an extra €10,000 ‘expertise allowance’, a transport allowance of almost €5,000 and a communication allowance of €815, which means Vella is eligible to receive financial compensation of over €55,000 a year.
It is not known whether he is also still occupying a part time person of trust position at the Gozo Ministry, earning an extra €14,000 a year. Vella did not reply to questions by The Shift.
According to an OPM circular, expertise allowances can only be given through the approval of the prime minister in “exceptional circumstances”.
It is unclear what expertise Vella has with regard to the disciplinary forces including the police and the armed forces.