The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Joseph Muscat, Chris Cardona, Konrad Mizzi lead the way in parliament absenteeism in 2020

Albert Galea Sunday, 17 May 2020, 09:00 Last update: about 12 days ago

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and two MPs who were top Ministers in his Cabinet but since lost their posts – Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi – lead the way in terms of parliamentary absenteeism this year.

Data analysed by The Malta Independent on Sunday shows how the trio have been absent for 29 parliamentary sittings between them, with Cardona missing 11 sittings, and Muscat and Mizzi both missing nine each.

ADVERTISEMENT

Not every no-show to parliament is marked down as an absence. MPs who could not attend due to government commitments including trips abroad, party matters or separate parliamentary duties were not marked as absent but excused. The same is remarked for those MPs who could not attend for other reasons, such as those of a medical nature.

The data, which caters for 40 parliamentary sittings from the beginning of this year up to 6 May, shows that members of the government bench racked up a total of 32 absences between them, while opposition MPs comparatively only racked up nine absences. 

However, it should be noted that 29 of the government bench absences were committed by Muscat, Mizzi and Cardona.

Cardona – formerly the Economy Minister – attended 18 out of 37 parliamentary sittings before he submitted his resignation as an MP on 30 April.  He was absent for 11 sittings and excused for a further eight.

Muscat and Mizzi have the same amount of absences from 40 parliamentary sessions – with that figure standing at nine. It’s a twist of irony in some ways, given how Muscat was criticized in many quarters during his tenure as Prime Minister for his staunch defence of Mizzi despite a mounting number of scandals and controversies with his name being involved.

Muscat was excused for a further five sessions, meaning that he has attended a total of 26 sessions out of 40, while Mizzi was excused for a total of 18 sessions – meaning that his attendance to parliament stands at a paltry 13 sessions.

In fact, Mizzi has not attended parliament since 13 March having submitted a medical certificate to justify his absence. It was reported, and not denied, that Mizzi is in the UK and has been certified as unfit to fly. 

The certificate was only submitted to parliament over a month later: Speaker Anglu Farrugia told the House on 21 April that he had received a certificate from Mizzi which excused him from sittings from 13 March onwards. Farrugia did not elaborate on any further details.

In terms of absences, the remaining three government bench absences are split equally between Etienne Grech, Rosianne Cutajar, and Silvio Parnis.

On the flip side, meanwhile, it is noteworthy that both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have been leading by example in their attendance; Opposition leader Adrian Delia is yet to miss a parliamentary sitting this year, while Prime Minister Robert Abela has missed only one, when he was excused as he was carrying out government-related work at the time.

In terms of others on the government bench who were excused from sittings, Silvio Grixti was excused from Parliament a total of 24 times, while Manuel Mallia was excused for 14 sittings as well. Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo meanwhile, as one may expect, tops the tally of MPs who missed sittings because of government work – with a total of 9, while Transport Minister Ian Borg missed 6 sittings himself for the same reason.

A total of 40 sittings were missed by government MPs due to government work, while a total of 18 sittings were missed due to parliamentary work.

On the other hand, a total of six members of the government benches have not missed a single parliamentary session up until 6 May – these being Energy Minister Michael Farrugia, Culture Minister Jose Herrera, Parliamentary Secretaries Alex Muscat, Chris Agius, and Deo Debattista, and backbencher Joe Mizzi.

Unexcused absences on the Opposition benches meanwhile were few and far between. Simon Busuttil tops the list with two such absences before he resigned his seat to take up a posting in Brussels with the European People’s Party in mid-February earlier this year.

Edwin Vassallo, Stephen Spiteri, Chris Said, Claudio Grech, Beppe Fenech Adami, former MPs Marthese Portelli, and Mario De Marco all then have one absence each.

Frederick Azzopardi meanwhile has been excused from sittings 36 times, while independent MP Marlene Farrugia has been excused 11 times. PN Whip Robert Cutajar and Mario De Marco were both excused for 6 sittings, while Clyde Puli and one of the PN’s newest MPs Ivan J. Bartolo were excused for 5 sittings.

As one would expect, no opposition MPs missed sittings due to government work, but 13 sittings were missed by these MPs due to parliamentary work.

A total of eight Opposition MPs meanwhile boast a full attendance record.  PN Leader Adrian Delia has been leading by example, having attended all parliamentary sessions since the beginning of the year. David Agius, Karol Aquilina, Robert Arrigo, Kevin Cutajar, Ryan Callus, and Maria Deguara have also attended all 40 parliamentary sessions up till 6 May.

David Thake meanwhile also has a 100% attendance record; he has attended all 20 parliamentary sessions since he was elected to parliament earlier this year.

As of 2016, MPs who pull a no-show to Parliament are liable to a €50 fine. MPs only need to be in the House for a few minutes to be recorded as present.

Not every unjustified absence will incur a fine because a penalty is imposed per “parliamentary day”, not per sitting. That means an MP who misses a plenary sitting to attend a parliamentary committee, for instance, is not liable to a fine.

 

  • don't miss