Contrary to what former prime minister Joseph Muscat said in an interview last week, there is no other former Maltese prime minister who has used public property as a personal office, except for Dom Mintoff – and he was doing government work.
In an interview with Lovin Malta, Muscat said he was not the only former prime minister to use a government building as an office. While many assumed he was referring to the former PN administration, none of the former PN prime ministers (Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi) or former Labour prime minister Alfred Sant ever used public property for their personal use after leaving office.
It was former Labour prime minister Mintoff who was granted an office to use for government work.
The assignments passed on to Mintoff by his appointee, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, included negotiating the State’s purchases of oil for its power stations, oil exploration and dealing with the Central Bank.
Mintoff was not using his office for his personal business dealings or to “meet people” as Muscat described his work at the office at Sa Maison ‘granted to him’ by Prime Minister Robert Abela as part of his “severance package”.
Muscat said he will keep occupying this office space as long as the prime minister “tolerated him”. Legal experts consulted by The Shift said the prime minister had no authority to grant such a concession, deeming it “illegal“.
“Comparing himself to Mintoff is not on,” a senior Labour official who used to work with Mintoff told The Shift.
“First of all, it is quite presumptuous for someone who spent just six years in office and was forced to resign to compare himself to Mintoff – a Labour icon – who spent 50 years in parliament and some 20 years as prime minister,” the official said.
“Also, Mintoff’s use of a public office was to conduct business for the government of the day and not for his private business as Muscat is doing,” he insisted.
To perform his new government duties between 1984 and 1987, Mintoff was first using an office at the House of Four Winds, today the head office of Bank of Valletta, and later an annexe to the Central Bank, now being used by the Malta Development Bank.
In 1987, when Eddie Fenech Adami became prime minister, Mintoff was relieved of his government duties and the use of public property was stopped.
The Shift has already revealed that, as part of his terminal benefits, Muscat was given a €120,000 golden handshake, as a result of him changing the scheme, twice, for his own benefit.
The Shift is unable to confirm information that the package also includes a car and two drivers for Michelle Muscat and any office materials for her husband, including the supply of paper.
Prime Minister Robert Abela is refusing to publish the terms of Muscat’s ‘severance package’ and his office has turned down a number of Freedom of Information requests by The Shift.