OPM says it has ‘no documents’ on €120,000 golden handshake to Joseph Muscat

Freedom of Information request for documents refused twice

 

The Office of the Prime Minister is insisting that it has ‘no documents’ related to the €120,000 highly suspicious golden handshake to disgraced former prime minister Joseeph Muscat.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Shift asking for a copy of the letter accompanying the payment of the lucrative golden handshake was twice refused, with the OPM providing only a terse reply stating “the requested document does not exist”.

The OPM’s latest stonewalling and outright refusal to give information about how Muscat received a controversial €120,000 payment in terminal benefits follows a series of questions which The Shift has been raising after revealing the unprecedented payment given to Muscat, forced to resign after only six years in office.

Following last June’s revelations by The Shift that Muscat was paid almost twice as much the terminal benefits as those given to his predecessor, Lawrence Gonzi, despite the former PN Leader serving as prime minister for a longer period than Muscat, Prime Minister Robert Abela has vehemently refused to reply to questions about the subject, avoiding questions from the media as well as parliament.

In his standard reply, Abela has only said that Muscat’s payment was in line with cabinet memos, which under Maltese procedures are secret. Yet The Shift has already revealed that the payment given to Muscat is not in line with other payments given and that his was an ‘extraordinary payment’ that Abela is refusing to explain.

Muscat’s golden handshake remains shrouded in mystery

Following a thorough investigation, The Shift revealed that according to the ‘Terminal and Transitional Benefit Scheme’ introduced by the PN administration in 2008, holders of political office who resign were being paid a month’s salary for every year in office in the form of a terminal benefit.

The Shift established that while Gonzi was paid a total of €73,000 when exiting Castille after almost 10 years at the helm, Muscat was paid a staggering €120,000 from taxpayers’ funds, despite having spent four years less in office.

The Shift has also established that the secret terminal benefits scheme was twice amended by Muscat’s cabinet in 2018 and 2019, the last changes happening just a few weeks before Muscat resignation, likely for his own benefit.

So far, the amendments to the scheme by Muscat and his Cabinet are still a State secret even though benefits are paid from public funds.

When the secret rules were amended, Prime Minister Robert Abela was acting as legal consultant to Muscat and used to be present during Cabinet meetings.

The Shift has also already established that the amendments made by Muscat did not affect the payments made to members of his own Cabinet, as according to information obtained by this news portal terminal benefits paid to former Labour Ministers who resigned following Muscat’s departure were given the same amount of benefits given to former Nationalist Ministers receiving the same benefits in the previous administrations.

In short, it seems Muscat changed the rules to give himself double what others received.

According to calculations made by The Shift, based on publicly available data on the terminal benefits scheme, Muscat should have been entitled to some €60,000 or half the sum he was actually paid by Robert Abela’s government.

The Shift has already filed a formal request to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to launch an investigation on the lack of information being supplied by the Office of the Prime Minister to Freedom of Information requests regarding Muscat’s golden handshake.

The Shift insisted with the Commissioner that it cannot understand how the OPM is stating that it has no record of communication on a €120,000 payment made to a former prime minister through taxpayers’ funds.

It insisted that once these payments are coming out of public coffers, the public is at least entitled to an explanation. Although some other countries and the EU also have such privileged schemes for political operatives, rules are publicly available for everyone to scrutinise.

                           
                               
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Iain Morrison
Iain Morrison
29 days ago

Is there an annual payment recently put in place for ex-PMs that we are unaware of?

Cikku
Cikku
29 days ago

It is obvious that former Finance Ministed, Edward Scicluna copied his boss prior to resigning his ministerial job in anticipation of his becoming the new Governor of the CBM. What is souce for the goose is souce for the gander. If the leaders of ALL political parties that will be contesting the forthcoming general election are serious in their promise of CHANGE, they must writing in stone NOW that everything that is paid out of the taxpayers’ money MUST be made public in FULL without any parts being secret on the pretext of being ‘business sensitive’. But then, does the ‘business sensitive’ clause include the ‘sleaze’ part of the deal, so typical of ‘con-rat Mizzi’ secretive deals under the watch of the corrupt Joseph Muscat and which seems to be still part of Robert Abela’s ‘continuity government’ he had promised the electorate before he took the baton from Joseph Muscat and became PM.

carlos
29 days ago

Till the very last minute pilfering the nation’s coffers.

James
James
28 days ago

I have said it before and will say it again.

There will not be any change nor chance of justice while the Commissioner of Police and the majority of the judiciary are appointed by the Prime Ministers.

Therefore until the E.U or the U.N put in place independent investigators to dig in depth and excavate the skeletons that are hidden and forensically examine the evidence which has been clearly buried by those involved in these scandals the status quo rules.

No regrets and no apologies at all.
No regrets and no apologies at all.
28 days ago

Maybe it was a “Direct Order” for services rendered?

Mica
Mica
28 days ago

So does that mean he has to return the money since there is no record of authorisation?

carlo
carlo
27 days ago

does he really need papers when he was the consultant of the most artful corrupt dodger Malta ever had? Rob, you’re another double faced liar.

Joseph
Joseph
27 days ago

U l-haddiem Malti li jeghreq l-gharaq ta’xbinu biex jaqla’ x’jiekol tawh Eur1.75 zieda fil-gimgha jew mizerja ta’ 35cents kuljum; tal-misthija kemm iz-zieda u tal-misthija min forsi jaf b’dawn l-affarijiet u se jerga jivvota lejber! Maggoranza tal-elettorat Malti li jivvota mhux bil-mohh imma skuzi bil-……..!!

Last edited 27 days ago by Joseph
Mac Taylor
Mac Taylor
26 days ago

Money is their god, power is the conduit to money. Labour will remain in power forever if they can do that. But one day they will have to climb down from that high place, and descend into a hell of their own making, when pitchforks and torches will be the weapons by which they will fall. The longer they stay in power the more pitchforks and torches they will have to face.

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
25 days ago

INDEED, THE PL HIDES ITS SHAME FROM THE PUBLIC.

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