Would you notice if a desk remained empty for 10 years?

A Spanish civil servant has been fined €27,000 (£21,000) after not going to work for ‘at least’ six years.

Joaquin Garcia’s absence was only noticed when he became eligible to collect a long-service award. Officials in Cádiz were preparing to hand him the award when inquiries revealed the true extent of his contribution to the local authority.

In 1990, he was given a €37,000-a-year post at the Aguas de Cádiz public utilities provider, Spain’s El Mundo newspaper reported. He had continued to collect his annual salary in his absence.

69 -year old Mr Garcia was paid €37,000 a year before tax by a water company run by local authorities in the south-western city of Cadiz. His fine was equivalent to one year’s salary after tax and was the most that the company could legally reclaim. Garcia was not fired from the post because he had already retired.

The court heard that the boss of the water company had not seen him for more than a decade despite occupying an office opposite his.

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

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

Mr García denied the allegations, claiming that he turned up each day but found there was no work to do. Garcia also said he was bullied due to his family’s politics, and was sent to the water company to be out of the way.

Asked why he did not report the situation, he said he had a family to support and feared it would be difficult to find another job, so read extensively and became an “expert on the philosopher Spinoza”.