PM spending €556,000 a year on 10 consultants, in breach of code of ethics

Taxpayers are providing over half a million euros a year for the Prime Minister’s record number of 10 high-earning consultants, who are mostly governing Labour Party political functionaries, The Shift can report.

Making matters worse, the engagement of 10 consultants by Prime Minister Robert Abela is in breach of the code of ethics governing the administration, which stipulates the Office of the Prime Minister is limited to a maximum of eight consultants or advisors.

Research conducted by The Shift also indicates an abuse of state funds when it came to determining the payment levels awarded to Abela’s handpicked consultants.

In most cases, Abela’s recruits were given substantial ‘expertise allowances’ to top up their already fat salaries, making them higher paid than the Prime Minister himself.

While according to the code of ethics, these ‘expertise allowances’ are only to be granted in “exceptional circumstances”, this has apparently become the rule at the OPM, which is splashing out allowances of up to €20,000 a year to some selected few, significantly boosting their take-home pay along the way.

According to the cabinet’s code of ethics, the Prime Minister is entitled to a maximum of eight consultants. So far, 10 have been recruited

The 10 consultants recruited by Abela since the last election are over and above dozens of ‘persons of trust’ recruited for his private secretariat.

According to cabinet procedures, the Prime Minister is entitled to a 37-member private secretariat staff, from his Head of Secretariat to messengers and drivers.

Who are Abela’s consultants?

The two most highly-paid consultants recruited by the Prime Minister are Aleander Balzan, who until a few months ago was Head of News at the Labour’s Party’s One TV, and a former party spokesman; as well as Ian Borg, a young lawyer who worked as an Abela’s assistant at his private law firm.

Aleander Balzan and his wife congratulating Prime Minister Robert Abela as pollster Vince Marmara looks on

The pair are being paid almost €70,000 a year each, with their package including the €20,000 a year ‘expertise allowance’. It is not known what expertise they possess apart from their experience, one as a Labour party reporter and the other as a junior lawyer.

Both were given generic job descriptions and duties, with Balzan assisting the OPM’s communications team while Borg assists with whatever the Prime Minister directs him to do.

In Balzan’s case, he will be assistant to the OPM’s Head of Communications, his former colleague at Labour headquarters Edward Montebello, who, like Balzan, was once the head of Labour’s ONE News.

Underlining his taxpayers’ funds to bolster his personal public profile and communications, Abela also inserted several Labour propagandists as consultants to his communications office, over and above those already forming part of his private secretariat.

Melissa Vella Buhagiar, a former ONE reporter, was given a €56,000 contract to act as a communications policy consultant after having already spent years at the right hand of Mario Cutajar, the former cabinet secretary under disgraced prime minister Joseph Muscat.

Christine Cachia, another former ONE reporter, is also a policy consultant to the communications team where she has been placed on a €45,000 remuneration package while party activist and former spokesman for Minister Aaron Farrugia, Sean Schembri, is being paid €67,000 for consulting on policy implementation.

Oliver Magro, until a short while ago a senior officer at the Planning Authority, is now a policy adviser at the OPM and has been put on a €62,000 salary. Although his contract does not specify his role, OPM sources said Magro is “the man to speak to at the OPM about anything appertaining to the Planning Authority and development permits”.

Magro is acting as an unofficial link between the OPM and the PA and is frequently seen in the company of big developers and businessmen discussing their projects.

Wayne Sammut, the former president of Labour’s student organisation Pulse, and former Labour TV reporters Roberta Apap and Claire Azzopardi, are also acting as OPM consultants.

Wayne Sammut, a former ONE TV presenter and now an OPM consultant, with Prime Minister Robert Abela

Robert Abela is also paying former Labour deputy prime minister Louis Grech as his consultant. The 75-year-old, who retired from politics in 2017 and is already receiving two privilege pensions – one as a former MEP and the other as a former minster – is now receiving an additional €60,000 a year as Abela’s consultant.

According to his contract, Grech, who is also entrusted to help in the drawing of the annual budget, is being paid €35 an hour for a maximum of 1,700 hours a year. OPM sources told The Shift that Grech is rarely seen at the OPM.

                           
                           
                               
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Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

Part time PM requires several consultants. Qualifications and experience might be useful.
Important that your roots are from ONE TV – the leading employment agency in Malta. Excellent salaries and perks guaranteed.
Pft

Alex Cochrane
Alex Cochrane
1 month ago

The bloke is a lawyer, most definitely not a politician or a leader, he needs all the help he can get!

A38
A38
1 month ago

Gold Vote holders only club!
You vote and the advisors fill in their pockets!

carlos
1 month ago

Is it possible thatthe pm needs all those consultants? Hope that they are not like him as when he was a consultant the most corrupt pm Malta ever had, his consultancy brought havoc in mafiamalta. The honest workers’ money given to trolls from the muvument korrott.

D. Ceaved
D. Ceaved
1 month ago

As one of the contributors towards their salaries, I demand that the authorities removes this spending immediately as a result the country will NOT flinch the width of a strand of hair – these political appointments serve absolutely no purpose.

Out of Curiosity
Out of Curiosity
1 month ago

Although I have nothing against paying what is necessary and in accordance with the parameters established, I have my doubts that these people are qualified to do proper jobs in the interest of our country. I am sure that their true aim is to act in the best interest of the party in Government.

carlos
1 month ago

people of distrust NEVER do proper jobs for the country but only in their own interest and their greed for money. Distrusted people of trust – most of them illiterate and lazy but holding the the tessera of the muvument korrott.

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

Hemm xi daqxejn ghal pensjonanti. Issa morru habtu il-bibien lill gahan biex ituhom ftit milli akwistajtu min fuq dar il-poplu. Nies bla misthija.

Toni Borg
Toni Borg
1 month ago

“consultants”???? what a joke!!!

Richard Slater
Richard Slater
1 month ago

Do grech and azzopardi feel gutted that they didnt ask for or were not classified as experts…i would be fuming….

makjavel
makjavel
1 month ago

Anybody knows the expertise of these experts.
The way the constable was enrolled , it does not look good.

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