The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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Ombudsman suggests anti-deadlock mechanism for 2/3 majority parliamentary appointments

Thursday, 29 September 2022, 13:59 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Anthony C. Mifsud, presented the Ombudsplan 2023 to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The Ombudsplan 2023 highlights the urgent need for an anti-deadlock mechanism to unblock situations where the required agreement of two-thirds of parliamentary support for certain appointments is not reached, and makes recommendations to this effect.

This is especially relevant due to the current situation regarding the Office of the Standards Commissioner, as Hyzler is about to leave for a new post, and the office will be vacant.

The Ombudsman is proposing the following for roles that require a 2/3rds appointment and are tied to Parliament, such as the Ombudsman, Auditor General and Standards Commissioner.

When there is a vacancy, or the term of office expires for one reason or other, the Speaker would issue a public call for a show of interest for those eligible and qualified to occupy the post.

The Speaker would then, confidentially, issue the responses he received from interested persons to the Select Committee that would be composed of two members from each side of the House of Parliament, presided over by someone who would have at some point occupied a constitutional role that had requires a Parliamentary resolution approved by a 2/3rds majority.

That committee would listen to the people who expressed interest and who would be, in its opinion, ideal to occupy the post. After this scrutiny, it would notify the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader with two names of those people, and if it is the case would indicate their order of preference. The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader would have a determined period in which they would consider what was submitted to them and reach agreement about the person who should be submitted for approval by Parliament. Their decision does not necessarily have to be in favour of one of the two people indicated to them by the committee, the Ombudsman says.

The Prime Minister and Opposition leader would then have to, in a joint note, inform the Speaker of the House about their agreed decision, or that within the stipulated time it was not possible for them to reach agreement.

In the first instance, where agreement is found, the Speaker would issue a motion for approval from Parliament, that would eventually lead to the President formalising the appointment of the chosen person. In the second instance, if agreement between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader was not found, the Speaker would tell the President that there was no agreement and consequently, the choice will be left in his hands to nominate someone who would be eligible and who, in his personal judgement, feels would be most ideal to occupy the post. For this aim, the Speaker would send the committee paperwork and all relevant documentation to the President.

This process should be in a framework with short time periods that overall do not need to extend more than 8 weeks from when the Speaker issues the public call.

As in previous years, the Ombudsplan 2023 also highlights issues that the Ombudsman considers that deserve particular discussion, namely the culture of sanctioning and the need for an efficient public service with sound values.

The Ombudsplan will be tabled in Parliament after it reconvenes from the summer recess and will be discussed later during a special sitting of the House Business Committee.

The Ombudsplan can be downloaded from here

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