Spanish civil servant off work unnoticed for six years

  • 12 February 2016
  • From the section Europe
a desk with two office chairs, one side is very cluttered and the other is empty Image copyright File pic (Manuel Vazquez)

A Spanish civil servant who failed to turn up for work for "at least" six years has been caught after becoming eligible for a long service award.

Joaquin Garcia, 69, was fined €27,000 (£21,000; $30,000) after the award brought his long absence to light.

Mr Garcia, whose job was to supervise the building of a waste water treatment plant, has since retired.

He denies the allegations and his lawyer says he has gone into hiding after suffering a media "lynching".

Mr Garcia said he had been a victim of political bullying in the job and moved to a post where there was no work to do.

He was paid €37,000 a year before tax by a water company run by local authorities in the south-western city of Cadiz. A court found in the authority's favour and ordered him to pay the fine ,which is equivalent to one year's salary after tax and was the most that the company could legally reclaim.

He has written to the mayor asking not to have to pay the fine, and will ask for a review of the judgement.

Reading philosophy

Spanish newspapers have dubbed him "el funcionario fantasma" - the phantom official.

The court heard that the boss of the water company had not seen Mr Garcia for years despite occupying an office opposite his.

The water company thought he was supervised by the local authorities and vice versa.

The deputy mayor noticed his absence when Mr Garcia became eligible to receive a plaque for 20 years' service.

Mr Garcia says he was bullied due to his family's politics, and was sent to the water company to be out of the way. He found there was no work to do there.

People close to him told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he was reluctant to report it as he had a family to provide for, and worried that at his age he would not get another job.

They said he did go to the office, although not for full business hours every day, and that he dedicated himself to reading philosophy.

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