OPM travel expenses three times figure allocated
Office spent more than €8 million above its budget this year
The Office of the Prime Minister asked for €1.6 million for travel purposes this year over and above the €640,000 originally allocated in the Budget, Finance Ministry figures show.
No replies were forthcoming when a spokesman for the Prime Minister was asked to explain following the publication of the supplementary financial estimates.
Sources close to the Prime Minister's Office said though most of the expenses were related to travel by Joseph Muscat and his delegations, journeys overseas by OPM members and senior public officers were also included. Travel by Minister Konrad Mizzi, who has been part of Dr Muscat's office since May, fell in this category, they pointed out.
Overspending by the OPM this year was not only restricted to travel, the estimates show.
More than €500,000 was allocated for information services, but the OPM asked for an additional €480,000. The €400,000 allocated to "unspecified professional services" did not suffice, as €170,000 more was needed.
In total, the estimates show that the Prime Minister's office has spent more than €8 million above its annual budget this year.
The funds spent included payments for the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and EU-Africa summit, which totted up an additional €5.6 million in unsettled 2015 bills.
Earlier this year, when the costs of the CHOGM and the EU-Africa summit were disclosed, the OPM refused to give the Times of Malta a breakdown of the expenditure, which had exceeded €17 million.
Originally, the government said it had budgeted €7 million for the CHOGM. However, when all bills reached Castille, it emerged that the total amount spent to host the two-day Commonwealth summit had exceeded €13.5 million.
The summit attended by EU and African leaders cost €5.2 million.
Asked for a breakdown of the individual expense items, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said the audited accounts had already been tabled in Parliament. The accounts showed that a third of the money spent for the CHOGM – €4.7 million – had gone into hospitality, and information services cost another €2.1 million.
No details were given regarding which private entities had been engaged by the OPM.