Golden handshakes: double payouts for reinstated politicians

Parliament’s terminal benefits scheme means four PL ministers are in line to get a second taxpayer-funded payment when they leave

 

At least four reinstated cabinet ministers are in line to pocket a second taxpayer-funded terminal benefits payment when they step down or are sacked from their current positions, having already received a substantial payment the first time they left government, The Shift has learned.

One former PN politician, Francis Zammit Dimech, has already helped himself to a double payment in this way, suggesting that others in similar positions may do the same.

According to data detailing payments made so far, obtained by The Shift, Edward Zammit Lewis, Michael Falzon, Anton Refalo and Justyne Caruana,  all members of prime minister Robert Abela’s cabinet, were each paid tens of thousands of euros in terminal benefits when they were removed from their previous posts.

The payments were made despite the fact that all four were swiftly reinstated as ministers after a short stint on the backbench.

The undisclosed terms of the government’s unregulated terminal benefits scheme for politicians, introduced retroactively in 2012, and which the prime minister refuses to publish, are raising concerns about possible abuse, with reinstated cabinet members potentially eligible to take home two, or more, golden handshakes from state coffers.

Questions sent to the prime minister about the possibility that members of his cabinet might also end up getting a second terminal benefits payment, apparently allowed through the secret rules of the scheme, remained unanswered.

Abela, who last week spoke about the need for more respect to journalists and journalism, is also refusing to reply to questions on whether his ministers have been asked to return the generous terminal benefits payments after being reinstated as members of his cabinet.

What is happening?

According to the undisclosed rules, changed secretly twice by the Muscat administration, members of cabinet who are either not re-appointed, who resign or who are sacked, are eligible for a terminal benefit consisting of a month’s salary for every year served in office or a minimum of six months’ salary.

However, the available information suggests that while the scheme makes it clear that the golden handshake is to be given to those who terminate their position, it does not address what should happen when recipients of the payments are re-appointed.

This leaves the scheme vulnerable to individual interpretation, with some politicians opting to pay themselves twice.

The Zammit Dimech case

A seasoned politician and long-time minister in PN cabinets, Zammit Dimech was not re-appointed to the cabinet in 2008 when Lawrence Gonzi won the third successive election for the PN.

As established by the scheme, Zammit Dimech, together with others who were left out of Gonzi’s government, was awarded a golden handshake. In Zammit Dimech’s case, the sum was €32,000. He remained an MP on the government’s backbench.

However, four months before the 2013 election, with Gonzi dealing with internal turmoil due to his one-seat majority, Zammit Dimech was re-appointed minister (Foreign Affairs) for just 12 weeks.

Despite having already been paid a golden handshake in 2008, Zammit Dimech received a second payout – of €27,000 – in 2013, shortly after the election that returned Labour to government.

Four serving Ministers already paid golden handshakes

While previously, the re-appointment of former ministers to cabinet was a rare event – it only happened once during the PN’s entire 25 years in government – it’s become a regular occurrence during the Labour government’s eight years in power.

At least four current ministers in Robert Abela’s cabinet have been reappointed after having been removed and paid tens of thousands of euros in terminal benefits.

Current family affairs minister Michael Falzon, sacked by Joseph Muscat following the Gaffarena corruption debacle, was paid €26,000 in 2016 after being removed from cabinet.

His colleagues, agriculture minister Anton Refalo, justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis and education minister Justyne Caruana all received double-digit golden handshakes after they were forced out of cabinet or were not re-elected, as in the case of Zammit Lewis.

Despite having been re-appointed as ministers shortly after leaving their posts, less than a year, in the case of Justyne Caruana, the four have not returned the thousands paid by taxpayers in terminal benefits.

Asked by The Shift whether these four ministers will receive another golden handshake when they stop serving in cabinet again, Abela declined to reply.

The Shift has revealed that so far, taxpayers have paid €1.4 million in terminal benefits to government members.

This does not include some €30,000 which is expected to be paid to former parliamentary secretary Rosianne Cutajar, who was forced to resign over revelations about her dealings with Yorgen Fenech.

The Shift also revealed that disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat received a golden handshake of €120,000, three times the average of the rest of his colleagues.

Prime Minister Abela is refusing to give an account of how his predecessor’s terminal benefit was calculated or to publish the still secret amendments passed by cabinet, seemingly to the significant personal benefit of Muscat.

                           
                               
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Gordon
Gordon
1 month ago

This is also apart from the direct orders/consultancy positions/positions of trust, given to these ex-ministers while on the back bench. It is disgusting.

James
James
1 month ago
Reply to  Gordon

And herein lies the rub. Just look through all the revelations going back to the ICIJ Panama Papers and the subsequent fall out from those first seeds sown and take note which companies have benefited from the direct orders which the institutions and proper authorities have showered on them like confetti to keep the lid on the Egrant, Electrogas, Nexia, Pilatus Bank , dos Santos scandals etc.

The same law firms and accountancy firms keep cropping up and and you don’t need too much imagination to think on the back of the DCG Inquiry that they are all, by implication, enablers in the first instance of creating the layers of “ discretion” to keep all these shady deals under wraps.

Subsequently they will have provided advice to the untouchables to make sure the trails won’t land on the top table, funded, aided and abetted by by the very same institutions and proper authorities who have dished out the direct orders in the first place and knowing the police won’t look too hard.

Great work if you can get it and have no moral compass at all. Doesn’t seem to be a problem finding such people at all does it ?

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
1 month ago

For all those sitting in parliament everthing goes by on the back of the Maltese taxpayer.
None of them did ever reveal what they earned from these cabinet debacles.
What is done in Cabinet is just all secret.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
1 month ago

Whoever goes into politics should never be trusted.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago
Reply to  Henry s Pace

Who was it who once famously said that to enter politics one must be a madman, a missionary or a thief?

My memory fails me sometimes.

carlosls
1 month ago

Fuq l-ezempju tall-akbar prim ministru (jos muscat) korrott li qatt rat Malta maghruf ukoll bhala the artful dodger li seraq il-flus tal-haddiem Malti u l-unur Malta u l-Maltin. Shame on him.

carmelo borg
1 month ago

Din l istess bhal tan nazzjonalisti bhal ma hadu 500euros fil gimgha. Nahseb il poplu KOLLU sar GAHAN ghax issa qed inhosni hekk THANK YOU SHİFT NEWS. Possibli Salvu Balzan ma ghindunax b din il kawlata jew qighed kwiet ghax hekk jaqbillu?

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago
Reply to  carmelo borg

According to Joseph Muscat, the much talked about, and rightly so, Euro 500 a week, were returned by the beneficiaries.
This is not the case with the Gahan PL leaders.

Mark Castillo
Mark Castillo
1 month ago

Keep in mind, also,that MP’s receive uncapped 2/3 pensions, whereas the lesser mortals can only receive a maximum of approx.€13000 annually!

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
1 month ago

‘ Golden handshakes: ‘How much that george vella received from these ‘ Golden handshakes: ‘

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago
Reply to  Henry s Pace

“Ask a silly question and you’ll get a silly answer” Mhux hekk!

Last edited 1 month ago by Joseph Tabone Adami
gadflyg
gadflyg
1 month ago

These people are beneath contempt … and all those half wits who vote for them are worse. Dim wits are not even aware that people like these are digging in our own pockets and taking out money to pay themselves and their cronies.

S.Borg
S.Borg
1 month ago

And the government civil servant stay happy with around 1100 euros a month.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
1 month ago

All this was kept in silence behind the people’s back.
All these people are not worth of a glass of water.
Veru hadma fq dar il-poplu.

D. Borg
D. Borg
1 month ago

Since I doubt that the Commissioner for Standards (are there any?) in Public Life will do anything about this brazen daylight robbery, it may need a Class Action in court – unless Bernard Grech dares come forward with a bold promise.
We also need to include the golden handshake footed by taxpayers to Helena Dalli, on her resignation to jump straight into her juicy European Commissioner seat, and definitely without being compelled to visit Jobsplus to enlist as unemployed.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
1 month ago

Its all done behind the peoples’ back.
It looks very convenient for ministers/parl secretaries MPs to shield themselves that what goes in Cabinet nothing to be known to GAHAN

Alain Aquilina
Alain Aquilina
1 month ago

All my employees that I never had the chance to interview…vote vote, clap yours hands, pay yours taxes and we’re friends!

Alain Aquilina
Alain Aquilina
1 month ago

All my employees that I never had the opportunity to interview…what a shame…vote vote, clap your hands, pay your taxes and we’re friends!

Alain Aquilina
Alain Aquilina
1 month ago

All beings of light, truth and honesty come forward, now is your time to rise.

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

The power of false gods. Hallas GAHAN. And we the pensioners cannot afford medicine and swicthing the AC and heaters. Do not be ashamed knocking on doors for votes.

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

Malta needs a new honest man ‘dictator’ in power that can confiscate these thieves from power. Or people have to learn on how to eliminate these false gods from power.

JOHN CASSAR
1 month ago

Spicca dan il-pajjiz. Mifni b’Membri Parlamentari korrotti jisolhuna b’dan it-tip ta’ serq. Immisskom tisthu jekk tafu tisthu

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

Issa ejja habtu il-biebien u ghatu ftit milli ghandkhom lill pensjonanti forsi jkunu jistgh jixtru an AC unit and money to pay for the monthly electrical rates. These people have no shame and those alike.

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