Economy Minister Silvio Schembri, currently seeking a third term in parliament with the slogan ‘Qrib Tiegħek Dejjem’, has topped up the family’s income from government coffers through a significant promotion given to his wife at a government entity that falls under his political control.
The Shift can reveal that under the political patronage of Minister Schembri, his wife Deandra was promoted from a desk officer to a senior legal officer at the Malta Business Registry (MBR), seeing her take-home pay increase by €14,000 a year.
Sources at the MBR told The Shift that despite her new senior management role, the minister’s wife is rarely seen at the office, “as she works mostly online through new measures introduced following the Covid pandemic”.
According to senior MBR officials, Schembri is one of the few senior management members allowed such flexible working conditions.
Research by The Shift shows that Deandra Schembri, who graduated as a lawyer in late 2012, was put on the government’s payroll at the MFSA as a desk officer in 2014.
Following a reorganisation spearheaded by Minister Schembri, the MBR, at that time part of the MFSA, became an independent Authority with its own structure at a massive cost to taxpayers.
As soon as the MBR got its own structure, the minister’s wife had her original €29,000 MFSA job transferred onto the new entity in December 2018.
Just three months later, a new vacancy for the post of senior legal officer was issued internally and Deandra Schembri was given her new position after her ‘successful’ interview conducted by employees of the MBR, all falling under the political responsibility of her husband.
Through this promotion, the minister’s wife saw her pay increase to €43,000, apart from an annual increase of some 5% and a performance bonus of up to €6,500 a year. The minister’s wife was also given an expense allowance of another €1,000 a year, pushing her annual pay to €50,000 a year, slightly lower than the official salary of her husband.
A few weeks ago, The Shift reported how a colleague of the minister’s wife, Geraldine Spiteri Lucas, had been selected by Minister Schembri to be the CEO of the MBR and put on a package of €90,000 a year. Spiteri Lucas was also appointed Chair of the MBR Advisory Committee and separately as secretary of INDIS Malta – another entity under the political remit of the Luqa-based economy minister.
The MBR has been in the news in the past months following an investigation by the National Audit Office that found that a former bathroom showroom in Zejtun was leased out for 15 years to serve as the MBR’s head office.
The three-floor building – property of Alex Mercieca Bathroom Centre – was leased for almost €2 million a year, with the NAO describing the costs as ‘prohibitive’. The MRB building scandal also revolves around an extra €5 million the government spent to finish off the leased building.
According to official figures, since 2018, the MBR has doubled its employees, now surpassing 100. MBR sources said that during the past two years the MBR has been stuffed with canvassers and supporters from Schembri’s electoral districts.