Malta
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Civil servant suspended over social benefits abuse claims unfair treatment compared to MUMN boss

A 59-year-old government employee, currently suspended on half pay on suspicion of abusing social benefits, says he is living on €450 a month.

In a judicial protest filed this morning by lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Kris Busietta, 59-year-old Cleaning and Maintenance Division employee Carmel Cassar compared his treatment at the hands of the authorities with that of MUMN head Paul Pace, who allegedly confessed to receiving payment for hours which he had not worked for which he had only received a slap on the wrist.

In an interview with the Times, Pace said he believed he was “hounded” over “human errors” amounting to just €215 in his overtime sheets.

In the protest against the Public Service Commission, the Permanent Secretaries at the Ministries for Tourism and  Health, the Prime Minister and the State Advocate, Cassar explains that his gross monthly salary is around €1,100, of which he is currently only receiving half, having been suspended by the Public Service Commission in July on the recommendation of the Director General of the division, because he had been questioned by the Financial Crime Investigation Department of the police force in connection with investigations into social benefits abuse.

Cassar had replied to the letter informing him of this, stressing his exemplary record with the Public Service, that he was presumed innocent and because he intended to repay sums which he had received from the Department of Social Services to which he was not entitled.

He had requested that his pay not be halved while proceedings were underway, pointing out that the same PSC had not similarly suspended on half pay the four Gozitan employees arraigned in 2022 on charges of involuntary homicide. It would be “absolutely impossible” for him to make the monthly repayments agreed with the Social Services Department, he said, and failure on his part to do so would mean he would almost certainly end up in prison if charged.

On August 23, Cassar was informed that the PSC was going ahead with its recommendation that he be suspended on half pay as a precautionary measure and that the Prime Minister had already signed off on it on 31 July.

This, together with his €100 monthly repayment programme, meant that he is living on just €450 a month. “It is obvious however that on €400 - €450 per month it will be impossible for him to live in a decent manner,” he said.

“During the same period, the protestor became aware that the same PSC was faced with a far, far bigger and graver case of abuse of public funds from a certain Paul Pace, who allegedly misappropriated a sum of nearly €100,000 from public funds over a span of several years,” Cassar’s lawyers say.

“In this case, however, the PSC chose not to proceed in the same manner and not only did it not suspend Paul Pace on half pay (despite him having occupied a far higher position in the Public Service than the protestor, but in closing the case before it, handed down the pretend punishment of only five days suspension, without terminating his employment…”

The lawyers claimed that Pace had admitted to having claimed overtime “for years” while on holiday in Portugal and Egypt or on his yacht” and that his favourable treatment meant that Cassar was being discriminated against by the PSC and the Prime Minister.

Calling his treatment “illegal, abusive and unacceptable in a democratic society,” Cassar’s lawyers pointed out that it was also in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The protestor believes that the amoral and illegal behaviour of the defendants is the perfect recipe for the law of the jungle, for anarchy, where might is right.”

The judicial protest goes on to further allege that the Health Ministry had handed over the documentation of the proceedings against Pace to the FCID, but had falsely claimed that Pace “had only stolen €4,500… when the amount stolen from public funds is well in excess of €90,000.”

Cassar said he will be filing constitutional proceedings over his treatment, which he says is trampling over the cardinal principle of the presumption of innocence.