Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, who has been harping on the need to tighten the public purse strings as the country hits record debt levels, has his ministry spending over €1 million a year to fill the seats around some 35 different boardroom tables.
The Shift analysed the boards under the finance ministry following information tabled recently in parliament and found that much of those boards’ tangible results are minimal or non-existent and that their work often overlaps.
Some of the ministry’s boards are heavily populated with politically appointed members, such as Jobsplus, which Caruana used to run, which has no less than 18 board members.
In some cases, certain people appointed to multiple boards are being paid separately for the different hats they wear.
This holds particularly true in the cases of Prof Philip von Brockdorff, a former permanent secretary under a Nationalist administration, Stefanie Fabri, once a member of former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s private secretariat, and Noel Camilleri, a lawyer who shares an office with former Nationalist Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici.
With an annual intake of €36,000 a year, von Brockdorff, who is also a full-time Professor at the University of Malta, is taking home monthly honoraria from the boards of Air Malta, the Malta Development Bank, the Malta Financial Services Authority and the Retail Price Index Advisory Committee. He also represents the UHM Voice of the Workers on the EU’s European Economic and Social Committee.
Stefanie Fabri, a full-time lecturer who is von Brockdorff’s faculty colleague at the University of Malta, is also earning thousands of euros from the Finance Ministry by sitting on the boards of the Fiscal Advisory Council, the Malta Stock Exchange, MSE Holdings Ltd and the MSE Institute. The former Gonzi aide is also a regular recipient of direct orders from government entities, including a recent €15,000 assignment from the Office of the Prime Minister to assist the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development.
The long list of Caruana’s board members (see the full list here) includes many senior public officers who have been placed on boards and are earning separate honoraria even though they are there representing their full-time roles for which they are already being paid handsomely by taxpayers.
These are the cases of Central Bank of Malta Governor Edward Scicluna, who is receiving an additional €12,000 a year for his presence on the Malta Financial Services Authority’s Board, Inland Revenue Commissioner Joseph Caruana for forming part of the same board (€12,000) and that of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (€3,500), Commissioner of Police Angelo Gafa at the FIAU (€2,352) and Project Green’ CEO Steve Ellul, who is receiving €10,000 as a Malta Development Bank board member.
Until 2013, public officers on government boards were precluded from earning such honoraria if they were already remunerated for their primary government employment.
That policy, however, was abolished once Labour took office.
Caruana’s nominees include others known for their proximity to the current administration. These include Charmaine Cristiano Grech, a former General Workers’ Union official who is chairing both Jobsplus and Air Malta Aviation Services in addition to her full-time job at another government entity, Interconnect Malta.
They also include Martina Herrera at Air Malta Aviation Services – the daughter of former minister Jose’ Herrera and developer Joseph Portelli’s lawyer Ian Stafrace who has been made Chairman at the Financial Services Tribunal, among many others.