The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Konrad’s PAC appointment - Bickering and the need for quick action

Friday, 22 October 2021, 08:53 Last update: about 2 months ago

Independent MP Konrad Mizzi seems to be playing quite a game with Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

He first refuses – twice – to attend committee meetings over the Electrogas deal. He then agrees to attend a meeting, citing that he did not want to allow the Opposition to disrupt the Prime Minister’s speech about the Budget in Parliament, after the PN had said that they filed a motion asking Parliament to vote and order Mizzi to attend.

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The next day, he then fails to attend the PAC meeting, saying that his lawyer was not able to be present on such short notice. In a Facebook post citing this reason, he also said: “I will not let you turn this committee into a partisan political exercise to obscure the government’s work and obscure the benefits of this project, including the reduction in energy bills, the reduction of emissions and the closing of the (Marsa) power station.”

A sitting has now been set for next week. The big question is… will Mizzi attend, or will he find an excuse? Will he actually answer questions? Will his lawyer be available?

Mizzi is also playing an interesting card. Mizzi agreed to go to the meeting before the Prime Minister’s speech in parliament. It was as if he was trying to protect Abela and not disrupt his preparation for the two-hour address in Parliament. It was only the day after Abela’s speech that Mizzi said that he would not attend because his lawyer was unavailable. It’s clear that Mizzi still feels part of the Labour group, although he was kicked out last year.

And so the questions arise: How close is Mizzi, really, to the PL? Is he trying to again cosy up? Has he always remained close? Or is he playing a game to try and gain support from Labour supporters? But if it is the latter, then to what end? Is Labour planning to bring him back in?

The Labour MPs on the committee are being seen as delaying proceedings when it comes to Mizzi. As an example, when Mizzi had refused to attend a meeting for the second time, the PN had proposed that the committee put the motion before Parliament that would have, if accepted, ordered Mizzi to attend. But the PL MPs were against this, instead wanting a Speaker’s ruling. The PL MPs wanted a Speaker's ruling on the situation as they did not agree with the PN’s interpretation of Parliamentary procedure. The PN eventually filed the motion on their own, not on behalf of the committee.

Perhaps if Parliament had ordered Mizzi to attend, the sitting would have happened earlier this week, as it was meant to.

With regard to Wednesday’s session, it is fair enough that one would want their lawyer present, but given Mizzi’s refusal to attend twice before, it looks as though it was again a delaying tactic.

That meeting saw quite a bit of bickering between the PN and PL MPs, this time over the date to set for the sitting for which they will ask Mizzi to attend. The two sides struggled to agree on this, with the PN wanting a meeting this week. Given the fears of an election looming, and that such a call would put a stop to parliamentary procedures, who can blame them. Eventually the two sides agreed to meet next week.

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