Prime Minister Robert Abela refuses to disclose the contract he signed with Ryan Spagnol, who he made Cabinet Secretary in an unprecedented partisan appointment to the role.
Spagnol, 32, was given the post despite having no experience in public service and minimal experience in the workings of government.
His qualification for the job was helping Abela win the Labour leadership race against Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne.
The OPM rejected a Freedom of Information request for Spagnol’s contract, saying it was covered by Cabinet secrecy rules.
Legal sources have confirmed that employment contracts do not fall within that category. The secrecy permitted is for Cabinet memos and decisions of national importance, not a contract the prime minister signed giving one of his aides a top government position.
The Shift is informed that Spagnol’s starting salary is close to €50,000, which excludes a raft of perks and allowances that the government is refusing to disclose.
Spagnol, who until a few weeks ago was employed as a person of trust by Robert Abela, has been given the highest salary scale in the civil service, equivalent to the financial package given to the Principal Permanent Secretary and more than the Police Commissioner.
Abela’s decision to appoint a low-ranking officer to such a high post is unprecedented.
Since Malta’s independence, the role of Cabinet Secretary was occupied either by the Principal Permanent Secretary or one of the highest-ranking officers in the civil service with decades of experience across all levels of government.
Spagnol was given a government job upon graduating in 2013, when the Labour Party was elected. He had previously been an activist in the Party’s university arm, Pulse.
Fresh out of university, he was immediately made senior manager at Identity Malta. While occupying that position, former Labour Party treasurer Joe Sammut was charged in court with falsifying documents to obtain hundreds of fake residency permits for third-country nationals.
Spagnol’s boss was former chairman Joe Vella Bonnici, who was quietly removed but faced no charges despite claimed investigations by the police.
Last March, when the general elections were held, Spagnol acted as a party agent present at the counting hall.
Before that, he was an adviser to Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri.
The Shift has requested a revision of the decision on the Freedom of Information request file for Spagnol’s contract.