The Malta Independent 8 December 2022, Thursday
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TMID Editorial: Replacing George Hyzler

Friday, 30 September 2022, 09:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

At the end of the day today, Malta will not have a Standards Commissioner in place.

Incumbent George Hyzler will be finishing his term today to take up a post as Malta’s representative on the European Court of Auditors.

Hyzler was appointed for a five-year term, which was not renewable, in November 2018. This means that he moved on one year before his tenure expired. It is a step up in his career and we are sure that, given his capabilities, he will do Malta proud.

But his departure from the post of Standards Commissioner leaves a vacuum, one that is hard to fill. During his time, Hyzler carried out his job diligently and meticulously. He was not afraid to say breaches were committed; neither did he hold back when the complaints made were frivolous.

His office was one of the few Maltese institutions which functioned properly in these last years.

If anything, the office’s powers are somewhat restrained, and it is a real pity that the parliamentary committee which should be taking action on reports compiled by the commissioner did not do its job properly. Too often, little, if anything, was done to correct what was wrong, and what was highlighted to be improper by the Standards Commissioner.

The way the Standards Committee is composed, with two members from each side of the House under the chairmanship of the Speaker, has only served to act as a gatekeeper for the government side. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries who were caught in breach were treated with a slap on the wrist, in some cases not even that.

The Standards Commissioner reports often embarrassed the government, or at least some of its members, but the government members on the Standards Committee, often supported by the Speaker, downplayed the issue to a great extent so as to defend them.

It is therefore no surprise that one of the recommendations that have been made, time and again, is that the composition of the committee should be revised and, added to this, have a former judge to chair the committee, rather than the Speaker.

But, before this happens, a solution needs to be found as to who will be replacing Hyzler. It is likely that the government and the opposition have traded a few names, but so far there has not been any agreement on the way forward. This is a similar situation we have for the office of the Ombudsman, whose term expired last year and for whom no replacement has been found, which meant that the incumbent, Anthony Mifsud, has remained in office.

In the ombudsman’s case, the office has continued to function under Mifsud, who recently also appointed several commissioners to work under his leadership.

But this will not be the case with the Standards Commissioner. Here, Hyzler will be moving out and the position will remain vacant until a replacement is found. In his last press conference earlier this week, Hyzler said that “it would be detrimental to leave the office unoccupied as there is a lot of work to do”.

We cannot agree more. The problem is whether Prime Minister Robert Abela wants to have someone who carries out his duties as impartially as Hyzler did.

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