The Malta Independent 8 December 2022, Thursday
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TMID Editorial: A proposal worthy of discussion

Saturday, 1 October 2022, 11:02 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Anthony C. Mifsud, presented the Ombudsplan 2023 to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday, and the document includes a proposal worthy of discussion.

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

This is an extremely relevant topic at the moment, as the office of the Standards Commissioner currently lies empty, as the former commissioner, George Hyzler, took up his post at the European Court of Auditors. Nobody has yet been proposed to take up the post of Commissioner, and a 2/3 majority vote would be required.

What the Ombudsman is proposing, is a mechanism that would safeguard against situations where agreement is not reached.

In short, for certain posts such as the Standards Commissioner, as well as the Ombudsman, amongst others – when they are vacant - the Speaker of the House would issue a public call for expressions of interest, and those responding would then be passed on to a select committee. After scrutiny, that committee would put forward two names to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, who would then agree on a name to put forward to Parliament for a vote. If agreement is not reached, the Speaker would pass on the committee paperwork to the President, as well as all other relevant documents, and it would be up to the President to nominate someone who would be eligible, and who, in his personal judgement, he feels would be most ideal to occupy the post.

It is a proposal that is certainly worthy of discussion. Giving the President more powers will also bring about discussions as to how the President is appointed, which is also another topic worthy of debate.

Another idea could be to create the post of a Deputy Standards Commissioner for instance, who could also be selected by a 2/3 majority at different intervals to that of the Commissioner, so as to try and ensure a bit of continuity.

Whatever the decision, a mechanism to ensure such deadlocks don’t occur, one that is as democratic as possible, must be found. Let’s not forget that the Ombudsman is in a similar position, where his term expired over a year and a half ago, however he was able to remain in his post so far until a replacement is found.

We must ensure that our institutions are protected, allowed to work properly, and are not hindered because of the inability by the two major political parties to find an agreement for a post. Most importantly, we must ensure that the people filling the posts in these institutions are impartial, fair, and the best people for the job.

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