New record of government officials and advisors

by Lorraine Williamson
government officials

The number of high-ranking officials and advisors in the Spanish government has reached a new record, with a total of 1,475 individuals, many of whom earn more than the president himself, according to recent data.

These officials and advisors, concentrated in the Ministry of the Presidency, led by Felix Bolañnos, accounted for a total expenditure of €147 million in 2022. Some with salaries that nearly triple that of Pedro Sánchez. 

The number of high-ranking officials and temporary staff, commonly known as advisors, has been rapidly increasing in recent years, especially since 2020 with the formation of the coalition government. Moreover, this is now the second-highest number of ministries in the country’s democratic history.  

According to data from the General Intervention of the State (IGAE) published on Wednesday, Spain had a total of 359 high-ranking officials and 1,116 temporary staff in ministries and their autonomous bodies in 2021, totalling 1,475 individuals, the highest figure on record. 

Rajoy cut advisers and senior positions 

Senior positions and advisors to ministries and autonomous bodies have increased by 2.15% compared to 2021, 27.81% compared to 2019, before the coalition government. Moreover, their growth is 57.08% compared to the 939 of the last full year of the government of Mariano Rajoy, 2017. In fact, Rajoy cut advisers and senior positions when he arrived at La Moncloa and had less in almost all his years in government than his predecessor in office, the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. 

High-ranking officials in the state include government members, directors of entities such as the CNMC (National Commission for Markets and Competition), the AIReF (Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility), and the SEPI (State Enterprise of Industrial Participations), as well as leaders of public entities, among many others.  

On the other hand, temporary staff are appointed by the government on a non-permanent basis to provide trust or special advisory functions to high-ranking officials. The appointment and dismissal of such staff by the competent authority are free, and their status cannot be considered as a merit for access to a permanent public function or for internal promotion. 

Cogesa Expats

Although ministries account for the majority of high-ranking officials and advisors, in 2022, there were an additional 93 individuals spread across independent administrative authorities and state agencies, among others. This, therefore brings the total number of high-ranking officials and advisors in the entire state public sector to 1,568. 

Expenditure on advisors 

The expenditure on advisors and high-ranking officials has been increasing since 2014. In December 2022, the state’s expenditure on this type of personnel reached €147 million, according to data from the IGAE on the budget execution of the General Administration of the State (AGE). This represents a 7.95% increase compared to the previous year and a 37.21% increase compared to 2017 when the expenditure on temporary staff and advisors was €107.14 million. However, the allocation for these positions has been increasing since 2014. 

While this expenditure is a small part (0.76%) of the total personnel expenses of the AGE, which amounted to €19.464 billion in 2022 to remunerate civil servants, labour personnel, and other contracted individuals, it is a significant amount that suggests many high-ranking officials and advisors earn more than the president of the government, Pedro Sánchez, whose remuneration reached €87,814.80 in 2022, according to data from the Transparency Portal. 

These same data, available only for high-ranking officials, a detail that the highest earner among AGE employees in 2022 was the president of SEPI with a total of €237,986.22. Following closely behind is the vice president of the same organisation, earning €231,699.59. Then, in third and fourth place are the managing directors of two mutual insurance companies collaborating with Social Security: earning €231,138.45 and €229,870.97, respectively. 

PP will reduce five or six ministries 

The People’s Party (PP) has frequently criticised the fact that Sánchez’s government has “the most expensive government in a democracy,” as stated by its president, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, due to the increase in the number of high-ranking officials and advisors since he took office. While this is true, it is also worth noting that this is the first government formed by multiple parties, which requires representation from various forces, including smaller ones, in different ministries. 

Feijóo has pledged that if the PP comes to power after the elections on July 23rd, they will reduce “five or six” ministries, including the Ministry of Equality and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, in order to make a “political spending adjustment.” It remains to be seen whether this reduction in portfolios would also translate into a reduction of high-ranking officials and advisors and, even more challenging, a significant reduction in personnel expenses for these positions, as salaries tend to increase over the years. 

Also read: Spain employed a record number of top civil servants 

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