The Malta Independent 5 August 2021, Thursday

Standards Commissioner’s report on Carmelo Abela not adopted after Speaker abstains vote

Jake Aquilina Wednesday, 28 April 2021, 18:58 Last update: about 4 months ago

Speaker Anglu Farrugia abstained his vote regarding the report published by the Standards Commissioner which suggested that Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela breached ethics, which means that the report will not be adopted.

The vote was taken during Wednesday’s meeting of the Standards in Public Life Committee.

This means that Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela is not obliged to refund money spent through public funds on an advert which was published on a number of newspapers.

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It comes after a report published by the Standards Commissioner had found that OPM 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.

Last week, Hyzler told the Standards Committee that the idea of creating clear guidelines regarding adverts would help, but that the laws are still clear and should be followed.

“That promotion was self-promotion; that’s my subjective opinion from what I studied. It put no light on the ministry, expect for the few slogans,” Hyzler argued during last week’s sitting.

The Standards Czar had also remarked that he has no problems with ministers publishing for self-promotion; just not with public funds. “The promotion was published on many newspapers, if he wants to do such promotions for himself, he can, but not with public funds,” Hyzler noted.

The PL and PN members’ expressed different views on whether to adopt the report during Wednesday’s sitting.

The PL members said that these contain subjective opinions, and that they had no clear guidelines regarding advertisements. Minister for Justice Edward Zammit Lewis said that, “there is a void for both Government and Opposition” when it comes to such advertising guidelines.

“There is no point in looking at past examples; we should look forward, and it is consistent with what Hyzler said that there should be guidelines,” Zammit Lewis said.  

“We do not feel comfortable adopting this report. We ask strongly to have clear guidelines. But we feel that they should be published so that we know where we can move on from here,” the minister remarked.

The PN, on the other hand, wanted the report to be adopted. “The law is clear,” Therese Comodini Cachia said. “We should see that ethics in public life should be observed as a committee.”

“This committee should adopt this report. The law gives the Commissioner the power to investigate and in this case, he saw a clear breach of ethics… his report has utterly no mistakes in it,” Cachia remarked. 

Comodini Cachia brushed off PL MP Glenn Bedingfield’s claims that Minister Abela was not approached before by Hyzler.

“Not only was Carmelo Abela given the right to give his own defence, but it was six pages long. So Abela knew well about this investigation,” Comodini Cachia said.

“It should come from the Minister himself to refund the public funds. Every deputy, even without intention, has to have a conscience and morality to refund money he has used.”

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