The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Chamber calls for smaller, full-time Parliament, suspension of IIP scheme

Saturday, 18 January 2020, 14:22 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta should consider reducing the size of Parliament and have full-time MPs, the Chamber of Commerce has recommended in a document containing 60 proposals on good governance.

It has also called for the temporary suspension of Malta’s controversial citizenship scheme (IIP), and for smaller ministerial secretariats.

The report was presented to Prime Minister Robert Abela.

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The Chamber questioned whether current MP numbers are necessary and proposed a exploring the potential benefits of a reduced legislature.

It also suggested making it mandatory to become full-time MPs with the right salary package.

Another proposal is for government to consider further the issue concerning the employment of “persons of trust” within private secretariats. Team members should be drastically reduced depending on the Minister/Parliamentary Secretariat and minimum qualifications need to be included in the regulations, it said.

There should be sufficient legal safeguards to preserve and protect the role of a free press, the Chamber said, adding that there should be a discussion on the future of political party channels. This discussion should be directly linked to party financing. The procedures for obtaining information under the Freedom of Information Act should be strengthened, it said.

The Cabinet office should be strengthened for it to become the main coordinating policy-making body. It should also be ensured that enforcement agencies are free from political interference, adequately resourced and avoid human interaction as much as possible through the deployment of digital tools.

Potential changes to the electoral system should be evaluated and potential systematic barriers to the emergence of any genuine third-party opposition should be identified.

The country should also look into state and business financing of political parties with a possible retrenchment of commercial activities for the parties (TV/media). There should be stricter party financing rules and the Electoral Commission needs to be appointed by two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) needs to be transposed into an authority that encompasses the National Audit Office (NAO) and has the ability to enforce and prosecute.

The additional prosecutorial functions being assumed by the office of the Attorney General should be hastened, the Chamber said.

Weaknesses with respect to the investigation and enforcement of offences relating to bribery and corruption should be identified. A consolidated Anti-Bribery Act similar to the UK model should be developed.

The Chamber also called for the setting up of a National Anti-Corruption Authority.

The President of the Republic should be allocated more executive powers, something which will require reforms to the Constitution.

The salaries of the Prime Minister and other cabinet members should be increased in line with leading CEO positions in Malta.

It also urged the introduction of a number of Prime Ministerial Committees which include technocrats, such as a national economic committee which reviews data and policies and gives recommendations for future actions.

Another proposal is to lobby for the tightening of ministerial and parliamentary secretaries’ code of ethics and introduce methods of enforcement of this code or sanctioning of its breach.

It also proposed the introduction of a register of interests beyond the declaration of assets.  There should be methods of sanctioning in cases of breach, with the most serious cases leading to automatic dismissal.

MPs should be barred from having executive posts to reduce the risk of subservience to Government in their role as monitors, and measures should be introduced to eliminate nepotism and clientelism.

Alternative modes of appointing members of the judiciary should be studied, and the Security Service Act must be reformed, with its head reporting to the President. The committee should also be attended by the Leader of the Opposition.

The appointment of the chairperson of the Planning authority must be kept at arm’s length from the Minister concerned. This role needs to be appointed by two-thirds majority in Parliament.

 

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