Debono Grech's payment for consultation work is driver and car
He advises the Gozo Ministry on Gozo Channel and rural affairs
Veteran sitting Labour MP Joe Debono Grech is not receiving any financial compensation for serving as a government consultant to Gozo Minister Anton Refalo.
Instead, he is receiving compensation in kind in the form of a fully-expensed car and a driver to chauffer him around, the Times of Malta has learnt.
According to his engagement contract seen by this newspaper, the 77-year-old former Labour minister is working for 20 hours a week at the Gozo Ministry advising on Gozo Channel and rural affairs.
However, his contract says Mr Debono Grech has refused any financial remuneration for his part-time job.
Instead, as compensation, he has been given the entitlement to use a fully-expensed car and a driver at government’s expense.
Asked whether the car and the driver are made available to the Labour MP only during his time in Gozo, a spokeswoman for the Gozo Ministry said: “He is entitled to a rented car and a part-time driver also equivalent to the 20 hours per week.”
For the past months, the Gozo Ministry has refused to grant this newspaper a copy of Mr Debono Grech’s contract as a government consultant.
However, the ministry’s decision was reversed following an appeal by this newspaper to the Data Protection Commissioner who ordered the ministry to give access to the document as this was deemed to be in the public interest.
The fiery former minister was recruited as a government consultant in March 2014, a year after Labour returned to power. Since then, his contract was extended on an annual basis.
Sources close to the Gozo Ministry told the Times of Malta that Mr Debono Grech is rarely seen at the ministry’s premises. However, they pointed out that he might be meeting farmers and animal breeders across the island as his job includes rural affairs. Mr Debono Grech, who hails from Birkirkara, also has a holiday home in Gozo.
In 2014, when the Times of Malta first broke the news of Mr Debono’s Grech engagement by the Gozo Ministry, a spokeswoman for the Gozo Minister had said that Mr Debono Grech was receiving a salary of “under €12,000 annually”.
At the same time she declined to state whether the Labour MP was also receiving any other perks such as a car and telephone allowances.
As an MP, Mr Debono Grech also receives a €20,000 annual honoraria over and above his pension as a former minister.
Mr Debono Grech has already declared that he won’t be contesting the next general elections.
He has served as a Labour MP uninterruptedly since 1976 and was a member of the cabinets of prime ministers Dom Mintoff, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici and Alfred Sant.