Rift between PM and Commissioner over Joseph Muscat perks

Prime Minister Robert Abela accused Standards Commissioner Joe Azzopardi of bowing to pressure and creating a precedent in his investigation over the “generous perks” his predecessor Joseph Muscat gave himself from public coffers.

In a scathing letter published in the Commissioner’s report, Abela criticised the Standards Commissioner and made it clear he disagreed that Muscat’s package should be investigated.

He insinuated that Azzopardi was dancing to the tune of “those constantly lamenting to intentionally put you in such a position”.

An excerpt from Prime Minister Robert Abela’s response to the Standards Commissioner complaining about tactics “intentionally” used to force the Commissioner to investigate.

The prime minister even raised similar “excessively generous” perks enjoyed by other former state officials, including their “salaries, pensions, and other benefits they enjoy after their departure”.

Although the prime minister did not specify who he was referring to, it is understood that he was referring to the judiciary and its members and their privileged pensions, which Azzopardi also benefits from as a former Chief Justice.

Like MPs and cabinet members, the judiciary and permanent secretaries have lately been given an extra pension amounting to two-thirds of the current salary of a Judge or a magistrate.

Azzopardi was Abela’s direct choice – he even changed the law to give him the position. But it seems Abela is not too pleased with Azzopardi’s performance.

The latest investigation by the Commissioner concerned the extraordinary terminal benefits package awarded to disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat on the eve of his forced departure in 2019.

Confirming The Shift revelations in 2021, the Standards Commissioner found that, unlike all his predecessors, Muscat gave himself a terminal package of €120,000 –  twice the amount to which he was entitled.

Muscat also gave himself a car for his wife, paid for and maintained by taxpayers, and the use of a government office in a recently refurbished building at Sa Maison, Pieta, also paid for by taxpayers, to use for his private business consultancy.

In his response to the Commissioner, Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted the complaints were not based on national interest but “political retaliation”.

In his response to the Commissioner, Abela seems to have forgotten that the role of the Commissioner he appointed was to investigate complaints on governance, telling Azzopardi that he should consider complaints about Joseph Muscat and his wife’s package as “political retaliation”. The Commissioner disagreed.

The Standards Commissioner made it clear that the extra car and the use of a government office in Sa Maison may be returned to the government and that Prime Minister Robert Abela has the power and faculty to stop the continuity of these “generous perks”.

So far, the prime minister has not commented on whether he would ask his Cabinet to revoke the perks. He only said he would ensure a law would be established to regulate such benefits.

Meanwhile, another ethics probe completed by the Standards Commissioner focusing on a possible ethics breach by Prime Minister Robert Abela himself has not been published.

The probe’s conclusions were passed onto parliament more than two weeks ago, but the parliamentary committee has not yet agreed on a date to discuss and publish the report.


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simon oosterman
simon oosterman
1 month ago

The commissioner is developing a spine.

Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
1 month ago

The PM’s reaction to the Standards Commissioner’s Report is nothing other than institutional bullying. The message of the PM I read is this: “imbasta hrigt ghonqi ghalik biex tilhaq int, issa xorta qed tibża’ u ddardar l ghajn li trid tixrob minnha”. X’arroganza.

1 month ago

robert – isthi mur inheba, int gwapp daqa l-akbar xpm korrott li qatt rat Malta u li int kont il-konsulent.

Leonard Schembri
Leonard Schembri
1 month ago

The Standards Commissioner is beginning to see the light as well but he’s not there yet. Forsi qieghda t’habbru qalbu qabel imut.

1 month ago

Abela is in Muscat’s pocket, it’s so bloody obvious.

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