The Malta Independent 9 December 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Nothing illegal, say lawmakers who benefit from not changing the law

Wednesday, 13 November 2019, 10:41 Last update: about 25 days ago

Just when you think things can’t get any more surreal, the government whips out a canvas and a paintbrush and challenges al of our preconceived notions.

Just when one thinks that matters cannot sink any lower than having a prime minister’s chief of staff fearing he may incriminate himself if he testifies in libel proceedings that he himself instituted, or by having three government ministers under similar fear and under actual criminal investigation.

While these instances are very specific, there is far more concerning across the board behaviour being undertaken by the government to placate and pacify its MPs, to keep them under its thumb and on a chain of euros.

That is the granting of every single government backbencher a state job, whether, we would say, they deserve it or not.  That’s right.  For the hitherto uninitiated: every single government Member of Parliament moonlights at another job provided to them on a silver platter by the central government.  Each and every single one has been given a state job to supplement their paltry parliamentary allowance.

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, in one of his first major orders of business had unleashed a hailstorm of a report scrutinising, in finite detail, the work of MPs for government outside of the House.

This state of affairs, in which government MPs are handed jobs by their own administration, has been festering for so long now that hardly anyone bats an eyelid with each consecutive appointment of MPs.

These are jobs which the Standards Commissioner has labelled as ‘fundamentally wrong’ as these particular people are not necessarily the best for the job and, worse still, the practice is creating needless jobs, which also incidentally usually command well above-average second wages.

Months later, the government replied on Monday with a long-winded explanation about how, after a careful analysis it has been determined that there is nothing technically illegal with the practice.

Now heavens forbid if the government were to be doing something illegal in all of this, this was never the point of the exercise nor was it the point if the criticism of the situation.

That nothing there is unlawful is a known factor, but the funny thing is that this is exactly the kind of thing that this administration of the country was meant to have changed.

It was, admittedly, an in depth look at the situation and its legality but the simple, barefaced fact of the matter is that each and every single word was a moot point because the point of departure here should be that that this government was meant to tackle this kind of behaviour, and not embrace it with open arms and exploit the situation to whole new levels.

The government hides behind the law, the law that it was meant to have changed, along with so much else, and uses it to enrich its MPs at the expense, at the end of the day, of the nation because we are quite certain that the taxpayer pouty there  is certainly not getting the bang for its buck when the central administration of the country needs to set about finding jobs for MPs rather than finding the right people for the right jobs.

The situation is ludicrous and it has to stop.

But the only problem here is that the people to stop the situation are the lawmakers themselves, the very same people who are benefitting from this situation at the expense of the people that elect them.

And judging by the government’s reaction to the Standards Commissioner, there is little chance of that happening.  We’ll just scratch it down to yet another electoral promise that has not only remained unfulfilled but, rather, turned on its head and exploited to the utmost.

Just when you think that things can’t reach a more abysmal point, the government is always there to prove you wrong.  There are always deeper depths to plumb and this government will quite clearly leave no stone unturned in doing so.

This latest episode is just one more in a long, sorry line of them.

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