Prime Minister Robert Abela has been strongly advised to send a public signal of disapproval and cut ties with his disgraced predecessor Joseph Muscat over recent revelations, but, The Shift is reliably informed, has so far refrained from doing so for fear of a party backlash.
“Abela was told by his ‘kitchen cabinet’ that he should, for example, stop letting Muscat make free use of the government office in Sa Maison to conduct his private business,” one political insider, a senior government official, told The Shift.
“And that could easily be done since there are no contracts. Abela would at least be perceived as having taken some form of action in the wake of more revelations linking Muscat to the money trails of the fraudulent hospitals’ concession.”
The Shift is, however, informed the prime minister believes it is not the right time for such a move.
Muscat using Sa Maison office on ‘tolerance basis’ – OPM
The Shift asked the Office of the Prime Minister for a copy of an agreement or contract for Muscat’s use of the Sa Maison Office, which was upgraded and refurbished just before Muscat began using it.
The OPM confirmed there is no contract or anything else in writing: “The office in question is public property and there are no contracts.”
“Joseph Muscat is using the office only on a ‘tolerance basis’ and only as long as Robert Abela lets him do so,” the OPM said.
The OPM did not reply when asked to explain why Muscat, who no longer holds any public office, is being given free use of public property even though he declared €500,000 in turnover from his consultancies in 2020 alone.
€75,000: taxpayers’ bill for former PM’s five-year Alfa lease
The OPM did supply a copy of a contract it had with vehicle leasing company Burmarrad Commercials.
According to that contract, taxpayers are paying a total of €75,000 for the five-year lease for the Alfa Romeo Giulia that Muscat is using.
The contract excludes fuel and maintenance, which are also being footed separately by taxpayers and which, in 2022 alone, cost €5,000.
As part of his severance package, Muscat has also been given a full-time driver and a full-time personal assistant.
He has also been afforded a fully-expensed car to be used by his wife Michelle, who never held any public office, and the payment of bills including mobile phones, internet, water and electricity and other perks.
Muscat claims €260,000 in expenses
Even though a good portion of Muscat’s overheads is being covered by the state, to the tune of around €300 a day, he nevertheless declared business expenses in the region of €260,000 for 2020.
According to tax rules, the self-employed can reduce their taxable income by claiming expenses. These must, however, be backed by receipts for actual business-related expenses.
According to sources at the tax department, an expense claim of more than 50% of turnover, such as Muscat’s, usually sets off alarm bells at the Inland Revenue Department and an audit can be triggered.
This holds especially true when considering the bulk of Muscat’s business expenses are being covered by the state. It is unknown whether Inland Revenue Commissioner Joseph Caruana, who was made a permanent secretary by Muscat, ordered a probe.