The Malta Independent 25 August 2019, Sunday

Committee that proposed pay rise for politicians says full-time MPs should not have dual roles

Neil Camilleri Monday, 5 January 2015, 13:44 Last update: about 6 years ago

The commission that has recommended a significant pay rise for the holders of political office and full-time members of parliament has told the government that, should the second proposal be adopted, MPs should no longer be allowed to serve on public boards and other government entities.

Yesterday, The Malta Independent on Sunday revealed that the commission proposed, among other things, drastic salary increases for the President, the Prime Minister and all members of cabinet, the Speaker and Opposition Leader as well as party whips and parliamentary committee members.

The proposed increases would see the President's salary increased by 69% to €95,000 a year and the PM's would go up by 89% to €94,975. Reacting to the story, the Office of the Prime Minister said that the PM is not after a pay rise.

The Nationalist Party accused the PM of taking people for a ride, seeing that it was he who commissioned the study on potential pay rises.

Ministers, the Speaker and the Opposition Leader would start earning over €70,000.

The commission also proposed the introduction of full-time MP's, which would earn €59,834. If this proposal is not accepted the amount would be halved but, if it is, it recommended that MPs should be barred from having other government jobs.

The document drafted by the Commission and sent to the Prime Minister in December 2013, which was seen by The Malta Independent, suggests that the appointment of part-time MPs to executive and non-executive positions on public authorities and corporations might have dented the basic concept of checks and balances. "If that is the case the defining line between parliament and the executive would be becoming increasingly blurred with the result that the administrative accountability to parliament would be considerably weakened."

The report says it would be difficult to see how such members could be objectively critical of the actions of the public authorities that they themselves head or manage.

The committee noted that such MPs are paid by the respective entities and corporations they work with and this might lead to a conflict of interest when any matter related to them is discussed in Parliament.

The committee said the issue will become relevant to its mandate if the country favours the full-time MPs option. In such a case the question would be whether these MPs should be paid over and above their full-time parliamentary salary. "If that were allowed one would be favouring the creation of a two-tier house composed of full-time MPs who are wholly dedicated to their parliamentary duties and others who are also allowed to serve on public entities and be, accordingly, paid over and above their standard salary. This would be an undesirable situation for the committee."

If MPs are full-timers, the committee said, their salaries should ensure that they would not need to act in executive positions. The remuneration they receive would be commensurate to their parliamentary duties. The members of the committee came up with the €60k salary proposal on the basis of this argument.

The committee noted that the holders of public office who are appointed on a full-time basis, such as ministers, the Ombudsman, the Auditor General and judges, are generally precluded by law from exercising any other professional activity for reward. This is done to ensure a high level of transparency and accountability and the case of MPs should be no different. The committee said MPs could possibly be allowed to engage in professional part-time work if the house opts for full-time MPs but such a decision should be taken after mature discussions.

A number of government MPs have been given roles on public authorities: one MP heads the Malta Tourism Association, another the Malta Sports Council (KMS) and another is chairman of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority. The Building Industry Consultative Council is also chaired by a government MP as is the Consultative Council for the South of Malta. Under the previous PN administration, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando was appointed as Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology. Former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had also created the posts of parliamentary assistants to placate his disgruntled backbench MPs.

 

PM opposes pay rise

In reaction to yesterday's story in The Malta Independent on Sunday, the Office of the Prime Minister said that the report was commissioned on the basis of a "clear point" in the Labour Party's manifesto to be considered for the next legislature.

This report was given to political parties in order for them to examine it, the OPM said.

"As has already been said a number of times, the Prime Minister does not agree with pay raises for politicians. The Prime Minister's position will remain consistent even after 2018.

There are points made in the report regarding the role of members of parliament that merit discussion, the OPM said. 

 

PM should stop taking people for a ride - PN

The Nationalist Party said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should stop taking people for a ride over the pay rise issue.

"It was he who wanted an increase in pay for politicians because it was he who commissioned this report. If what the PM said today is true, he has taken the Ombudsman, the Auditor-General and Chief Electoral for a ride when commissioning the report."

"How can the people believe Dr Muscat when he says that he is against an increase in pay for politicians? It is he who passed a law which enables his own backbenchers to have an increase in their pay through various roles that they now occupy.

"Dr Muscat says he is against a pay rise for politicians and he himself gave a rise to [Labour Mps] Deo Debattista, Anthony Agius Decelis, Silvio Schembri, Carmelo Abela, Charles Buhagiar, Joe Debono Grech, amongst others. 

"Once again, Muscat excels in hypocrisy," a spokesperson for the PN said. 

 

 

 

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