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Planning Authority’s hide-and-seek on chairman’s salary

In May, the PA had directed MaltaToday to file the FOI request in the first place. Two months later, the PA refused the request

james
James Debono
1 August 2017, 8:30am
Johann Buttigieg: salary still undisclosed
Johann Buttigieg: salary still undisclosed
The Planning Authority has refused MaltaToday’s Freedom of Information request on the executive chairman’s new salary, after having first directed the newspaper to make the request in the first place.

In a move that reflects a worsening climate of transparency, the PA denied the FOI request to publish the salaries of Johann Buttgieg and the members of the Planning Commission, since the request does not concern a document as defined by the Freedom of Information law.

Back in May, the PA had directed MaltaToday to file the FOI request in the first place when it refused to publish the salaries of Buttigieg and the planning commission members. “May you kindly make a request for this information under and through the procedures established by the Freedom of Information Act,” the PRO told MaltaToday.

More than two months later, the newspaper has been informed by the same Planning Authority that its request has been refused. The reason given for turning it down is that “this is not a request for a document as defined by the Freedom of Information Act but generic information which needs to be compiled”.

MaltaToday had immediately presented the request through the Freedom of Information Act after being asked to do so by the PA. A decision on such requests has to be provided within 20 working days from submission of the request, but the answer could not be given during the general election campaign. A refusal can be contested through a complaint, and a second refusal then forwarded to the Information and Data Protection Commissioner to review.

In the past, the PA has had no trouble answering similar requests on the salaries paid to former CEO Ian Stafrace and Buttigieg himself.

Buttigieg’s new salary and allowances were under discussion back in January, when the former CEO was appointed executive chairman with added responsibilities, which include chairing the PA’s executive council under the new planning law.

As CEO, Johann Buttigieg was receiving an annual salary of €60,000, €10,000 less than his predecessor Ian Stafrace. When he was appointed in 2011, Stafrace received a basic salary of €65,000 – which was set to increase to €70,000 in the second and third years of his appointment.

While Buttigieg is in charge of the day-to-day running of the PA, the PA chairman Vince Cassar is appointed on a part-time basis with a salary of €18,000. In 2013, his predecessor, Austin Walker, who was initially appointed as executive chairman in 2008, received an annual salary of €93,000.

The executive chairperson may only be dismissed by a resolution of the House of Representatives at any time “for a just cause”. The law also specifies that failure to achieve “the targets and objectives set for him by the Minister”, amount to a just cause for dismissal.

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...