The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

OPM will leave it up to Standards Committee to decide if Carmelo Abela should pay back funds

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 15 April 2021, 12:42 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Office of the Prime Minister told this newsroom that it is the Parliamentary Standards Committee that will take a decision on the report drafter by the Standards Commissioner, which found a breach of ethics on the part of Minister Carmelo Abela.

On Wednesday, a report by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler was published, which revealed that Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela breached ethics with the publication of a newspaper advert that was intended to boost his image, rather than provide information of value to the public.

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The investigation by the Standards Commissioner was instigated by civil society group Repubblika. The issue revolved around a full-page advert that was printed in a number of local newspapers. Repubblika claimed that there was a misuse of public funds.

The Commissioner’s report read, among other things, that the expenditure of public funds on the advert “was not warranted.”

“It served the interests of Minister Carmelo Abela as a member of Parliament who was seeking to retain his ministerial post.”

Hyzler said it us up to the Standards Committee to consider what remedy is appropriate but noted that there is practice in the UK House of Commons whereby a member of the House who is found to have misused public resources is required to refund to the state the value of those resources.

The cost of the advertising campaign (consisting of fund disbursed, and not including the cost of ministry staff time) amounted to €7,012.98.

This newsroom sent questions to the Office of the Prime Minister, to see firstly if Minister Carmelo Abela has decided to pay back the funds, if the Prime Minister would be taking the initiative and asking the minister to pay back the funds, and for the Prime Minister’s reaction to Hyzler’s report.

In response, a spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister said: “The report speaks about the Standard Commissioner’s view on a prima facie level, and it is only the Parliamentary Committee that can take a decision on the subject. This decision still needs to be taken.”

“The Commissioner’s view in this case entered into a point that, until today, there are no guidelines about. That is why the government will draw up clear guidelines to avoid subjectivity. This is part of the process of continuing reforms that this Government is undertaking to take good governance to the next level.”

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