Two Cabinet members who said they do not own their homes in their first declarations of assets tabled in Parliament a few months ago have set the record straight with The Shift by providing details of their property leases.
Active Ageing Minister Jo Etienne Abela – a successful Gozitan surgeon who had been in private practice for a decade before entering politics – has confirmed with The Shift that the apartment on Tower Road, Sliema, where he has been residing together with his family for the past 10 years is leased.
Abela has clarified with The Shift that he has been paying the same monthly rent of €1,100, including utilities and VAT, for the past decade.
The minister, who lives in one of the costliest and most sought-after areas in Malta, said he is paying €13,200 a year for the seafront apartment, which includes a car space.
In his declaration of assets, Minister Abela did not state his income for the year before he was elected when he was working as a full-time surgeon. He emphasised, however, that he has no tax arrears.
The other Cabinet member lambasted for not declaring ownership of his place of residence was Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Chris Bonett.
He has also declared his housing expenses with The Shift. Bonett said he is paying €750 a month for his Marsaskala flat. He insisted that his landlord registered the lease contract according to law and that he does not pay VAT on his rent as it is inapplicable to long-term residential leases.
According to the decades-old Ministerial Code of Ethics, all Cabinet members are obliged to declare their assets and any year-to-year changes to those assets.
This includes all the property in their names, any investments, the amount of money or financial assets held at banks and their annual income.
The Code, which lacks any enforcement or verification, does not oblige Cabinet members to declare the assets held by their spouses or adult children.
Proposals made months ago by the Standards Commissioner for a review of the Code to make it stricter, and more enforceable have so far been ignored by Prime Minister Robert Abela. According to the Code, Cabinet members must also declare any gifts received, whether in cash or in kind.