Former judge denies obtaining MP’s pension through political interference

Philip Sciberras, who was also a Labour MP, said he had only contacted the Association of Former Parliamentarians to ask whether he was legally entitled to an MPs pension

Former Labour MP Philip Sciberras
Former Labour MP Philip Sciberras

Former judge and Labour MP Philip Sciberras has denied any political interference in him being granted an MP’s pension.

According to media reports last Sunday, Sciberras was granted a privileged pension reserved for MPs, despite objections by the Treasury that he had not served in Parliament for the required period of time to make him eligible.

The report stated that the Treasury was overruled by the government, despite it sticking to its original objections during a 2014 meeting held at the Speaker’s office.

Moreover, it was reported that Treasury officials dealing with the case could not understand why the retired judge had “waited until Labour returned to power to make his claim”, given that he believed he was entitled to it.

Reacting to the story, Sciberras told MaltaToday that had been granted a pension as a result of him enquiring with the Association for Former Parliamentarians. At no point did he speak to anyone from the treasury or government, he said.

Asked why he had waited till 2013, Sciberras said he had met a former Nationalist Party MP in 2013, who had told him he might be entitled to an MPs pension.

“All I did was send an innocuous email to the association and asked if I was entitled,” Sciberras said. “The association then took up the matter with the speaker and the treasury.”

Sciberras stressed that he had been an MPs for half the 1976 legislature, and for the entirety of the 1981 legislature. He also noted that according to the law, the period in between the dissolution of Parliament and the start of the following legislature, was included in the period of time he was an MP.

The Member of Parliament Pensions Act does state that “a member who ceases to be a member upon a dissolution of Parliament and is re-elected a member at the first general election after that dissolution, shall also include the period between the said dissolution and they day on which the House first sits after that dissolution.”

The law also states that for members to be eligible, they must have “had a term of service in at least two legislatures, not being in aggregate less than sixty five months,” however it is unclear whether other provisions of the law applied to Sciberras' case.

According to the Sciberras, he had been an MP for a total of 2,826 days.

Former Labour MP Lino Debono, who is the secretary of the Association of Former Members of Parliament told MaltaToday that Sciberras’ case had been brought to his attention by a third party.

This, he said, led him to refer the matter to the association’s committee, adding that he had the minutes from the meeting to prove it.

Debono also said there had been no political interference in Sciberras being granted his pension, but acknowledged there was a difference of interpretation between the association and the treasury. 

He said the accusations being made were baseless but stopped short of giving more details as he would be doing so during a press conference scheduled to take place tomorrow.

Request for Auditor General to investigate

Meanwhile Alternattive Demokratika (AD) has said it would be making a formal request for the Auditor General to investigate potential political interference.

AD said that despite objections by the treasury department, the government had pressured it to act in a ‘preferential and discriminatory manner’, adding that through its behavior, the government had created second-class pensioners while favouring its close allies and supporters.

"Once again we are witnessing another instance where party allegiance opens the way for preferential treatment and favouritism at the expense of the state. It is a shame that the same enthusiasm used with those living very comfortably with three sizeable pensions, is not shown towards pensioners in a serious risk of poverty,” AD Deputy Chairperson Mario Mallia said.

The formal request for investigation will be made on Tuesday by AD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo.

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