The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

TMID Editorial: Konrad Mizzi’s PAC refusal - Completely unacceptable

Friday, 15 October 2021, 09:28 Last update: about 3 months ago

Konrad Mizzi’s refusal to attend Public Accounts Committee sittings that are delving into the Electrogas project is an insult to the people and to all Parliamentarians.

Mizzi played a key role in the project, which was under his responsibility at the time as minister. His testimony before the committee should be heard.

He refused the summons not once, but twice. Quite a slap in the face of committee members, a total disrespect towards Parliament.

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The first time he refused, he made a post on Facebook to justify his decision. “This exercise is nothing more than a partisan attack on the project which shifted energy generation in Malta from polluting Heavy Fuel Oil to cleaner Gas and renewable energy, a project that has brought so many benefits to the Maltese and Gozitan people, as well as to the economy of our country (…) The Electrogas project has already been scrutinized by the Office of the Auditor General, which has completely dispelled the Opposition's allegations. That is why I regard the call of the Public Accounts Committee as nothing more than a partisan political exercise pushed by the Nationalist Party,” he had said.

In the second sitting, to which Mizzi also did not turn up, PAC Chairman Beppe Fenech Adami said Mizzi sent a letter just that morning informing the committee that he would not be attending and Mizzi said that this was standard practice when MPs were summoned before the committee. Fenech Adami said that this was incorrect and that the practice is always for people to come and testify. Mizzi also cited a clause from the UK’s Parliamentary rulebook (Erskine May), regarding witnesses in parliament in an attempt to justify his absence.

The PN MPs on the PAC argued that Erskine May’s allowance for MPs not to attend is not absolute. The Opposition MPs argued that a motion should be filed asking the whole of Parliament to order Mizzi to attend a PAC session. The Labour MPs on the committee did not agree. Instead, the PL MPs want the Speaker to provide a ruling on the matter, arguing that the PN MP’s ability to file such a motion is based on foreign precedents, not a local one, and that their reasoning was not as absolutely clear as it should be.

The PN MPs said that asking for a Speaker’s ruling weakens the committee.

In the end, what is important is that Mizzi is made to appear before the committee. The Speaker should see to that.

If this does not happen, and no action is taken against a representative of the people who refuses to appear to testify before one of the most important Parliamentary Committees, this will continue to fortify the notion of a culture of impunity that has unfortunately been a recurring characteristic of the Labour administration.

After all, if MPs don’t respect a summons by a Parliamentary Committee, they should be held accountable for it.

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