Two former ministers awarded cushy appointments after casual election

Former tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis will be offering legal consultancy to Identity Malta while former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia is to be appointed as chairperson of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority

Edward Zammit Lewis and Manuel Mallia
Edward Zammit Lewis and Manuel Mallia

Former tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis’ legal firm has been engaged to provide legal consultancy to Identity Malta – the agency responsible for identity documents, work and residence permits, and the controversial Individual Investment Programme (IIP) among others – MaltaToday has learnt.  

Meanwhile, former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia has confirmed he is to be appointed as chairperson of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA). 

During the last legislature, Zammit Lewis was appointed minister for tourism in 2014 but he did not retain his portfolio after he was unable to secure a parliamentary seat in last month’s snap general election. 

He was then elected to parliament by means of the Labour Party’s casual elections for seats vacated by candidates elected on two districts. 

The MP confirmed to this newspaper that the passport agency had engaged his firm, however he said he was not at liberty to divulge details about the engagement. 

Moreover, he pointed out that this did not mean he was working for the agency, and was by no means a member of Identity Malta’s in-house legal team. 

“I am not sure whether I am the only one but yes my office has been engaged by Identity Malta,” he said when contacted by MaltaToday.

During the last legislature, the government was accused on a number of occasions of supplementing MPs’ wages through chairmanships and roles in a number of government agencies and institutions.

Asked whether the engagement was in compensation for the fact that he had not retained his cabinet position, Zammit Lewis insisted that cabinet appointments were the prerogative of the Prime Minister and that given that he had no ministerial duties he was once again working within his profession. 

“Before I entered politics I was a lawyer and I had a certain reputation,” said Zammit Lewis, adding that he had decided to enter politics to work for people. 

He said that it wasn’t “a matter of compensation” and that since he had no cabinet position, he was free to offer his services to potential clients. 

The former minister was also asked to confirm whether he had an office at Castille, a suggestion he laughed off while insisting that legal work for the agency was carried out by his own office. 

Former minister Manuel Mallia to be made OHSA chairman

Former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia will be appointed as chairperson of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA). 

The Labour MP confirmed this impending appointment with MaltaToday, a move that will see him replace Deo Debattista, who was recently promoted to parliamentary secretary for consumer protection.

Mallia was appointed home affairs minister upon Labour’s election to government in 2013, but was sacked a year later following a shooting incident involving his personal chauffeur.

He returned to Cabinet in 2016, this time as competitiveness and digital economy minister.

He failed to get elected to Parliament in last month’s general election, but was elected in the subsequent casual election after social policy minister Michael Falzon vacated his seat on the ninth district. 

The appointment will see Mallia pocket an additional €14,000 a year from public funds, over and above his €20,064 salary as MP and his €26,785 salary for his role as chairperson of Parliament’s economic and financial affairs committee.

It indicates that the current Labour government intends to continue its trend of handing out public sector positions and consultancies to its backbenchers.  

In the past legislature, these notably included Silvio Schembri, who was paid €39,000 for chairing the newly set-up Responsible Gaming Foundation, and Silvio Parnis, who was paid €22,000 for chairing the Consultative Council for the South. 

A study conducted by MaltaToday in 2014 showed that Labour’s 39 MPs were costing the taxpayer over €1.6 million a year, a substantial increase of €472,439 when compared to the previous Nationalist parliamentary group in 2012.