The Malta Independent 9 May 2021, Sunday

‘My driver is paid less than ministerial chauffeurs’: Hyzler fires back at Bedingfield

Wednesday, 21 April 2021, 14:57 Last update: about 17 days ago

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler has fired back at Labour Whip Glenn Bedingfield, dismissing claims by the MP as ‘unfounded.’

On Monday, Bedingfield tore into the Standard Czar’s office, saying that Hyzler was failing to abide by the high standards he is dutybound to uphold.

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He accused Hyzler of engaging persons of trust, of paying his driver more than a government doctor and of refusing to answer questions.

In a strongly worded rebuttal, Hyzler said his driver is paid less than those employed by ministers. “Ministerial drivers are paid €24,650, which is equivalent to a scale 9 salary, even if they are not officially on this scale. My  driver is paid €23, 623, which was part of a budget package approved by Parliament.”

He also added that he has one driver, not two, like ministers do. “My driver works every day and carries out other office work and remains on call, while ministerial drivers work on a day-in, day-out basis.”

He said it is untrue that he is refusing to answer questions about his office. He has already replied to two questions while two others are still pending.

“Bedingfield is being factually incorrect and contradicting himself when he is quoting from one of these answers while at the same time saying that I am refusing to answer questions.”

Hyzler said his three consultants are paid €54,000 collectively, despite being experienced and qualified in their field.

He said he had already told the Speaker that he had to engage people urgently since he initially had no staff and no office to work from. It was untrue, he said, that five out of his six officials were employed on a trust basis. In fact, two of them were public servants who were detailed to his office with the approval of the Office of the Prime Minister. Another was employed through a public call.

He added that he had never said that ministers should not be allowed to employ persons of trust. “What I said is that this long-standing practice should be regulated by the constitution and that there should be safeguards against abuse.”

It was also untrue that one of his staff members is “under the shadow of corruption.” Hyzler said he had looked into Bedingfield’s claim and found it to be “totally unfounded.” If the MP has any proof to the contrary, he should pass them on to the Commissioner privately.

Bedingfield was also wrong when he said Hyzler criticised spending on advertising. The MP said Hyzler had chosen to advertise in only one newspaper and one website.

“I criticised the spending of public funds for political, partisan or personal purposes,” Hyzler said. He added that he had been prudent in his spending and chose these two avenues as they were enough to reach a national audience.

Also unfounded is the allegation that the office had leaked documents or reports. He said all his staff have sworn an oath of confidentiality. If any reports were leaked, this had happened after the reports were passed on to the Standards Committee.

“Those who wish to ascertain themselves about my impartiality need only look at the conclusions of the reports this office carried out, and which are published on the official website,” Hyzler said.

These reports pertain only to actual investigations and do not include complaints which did not even merit looking into, he said, adding that he has also been criticised by sections of the media for not being harsh enough.

Hyzler said his role does not permit him to enter into arguments with MPs but he felt he had no option to reply to unfounded and serious accusations that affect the credibility of his office.

“Attacks like this one serve only to undermine the efforts of this Parliament to strengthen the country’s institutions at a time when the country needs to show that its institutions are working.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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