The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Government should launch a genuine public consultation on the Whistleblower Act - Repubblika

Friday, 25 November 2022, 15:26 Last update: about 3 months ago

Repubblika is urging the government to launch a genuine public consultation for the Whistleblower Act as it is "persisting down the wrong path... on this very important law".

Repubblika together with the help of the Whistleblower International Network, has issued an analysis on how the law had been amended.

It resulted that out of the 20 objectives that had to be reached in the field of the whistleblowing legislation, where previously Malta had reached 8/20 it has now reached 13.5/20. However the NGO is arguing that "this is not the way to go" but rather the real test is whether this legislation works or not.

The Whistleblower Act was approved by the Maltese Parliament in September 2013 at the same time in which Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri opened secret companies in Panama, and Pilatus Bank was licensed to operate in Malta, the NGO said.

"The fact that this law is designed not to work shows a bad intention"

The NGO mentioned that as the deadline to implement measures required by a 2019 EU Directive on Whistleblowing approached, Repubblika had called on the Maltese authorities to open consultations to discuss changes in the law that would help achieve the law's declared objectives. Despite repeated requests, these had been ignored, it said.

So in December 2020 Repubblika publicly asked the government to consult in a genuine and effective way about changes in the law, however the government never answered, apart from Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis publicly promising that he will make the changes by the end of that year. In December 2021 the government published the law and brought it into force a few days later. "This is not a pass mark issue".

For example, it said, an applicant needs to ask permission from an office directly controlled by the government... "no autonomy, no security of tenure."

As an example of how this legislation does not work, Repubblika delved into the case of Jonathan Ferris who was faced perjury charges in court after Egrant inquiry. It continued by saying that Ferris was advised that if he were to reveal certain information he learnt from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit he was to end up in prison.

"This will definitely have a chilling effect on potential whistleblowers"

The NGO noted how the Whistleblower law is also supposed to apply effectively for the private sector, for example in cases relating to money laundering. However it said that an obstacle was created, giving the Ombudsman a role to be the guardian of private sector whistleblowers, yet "the Ombudsman voluntarily made it clear that this function is not his and that he cannot exercise it because the Constitution says that the Ombudsman only operates in the public sector"

In a press conference Repubblika said that Malta, like many other countries around the world, has at its disposal the opportunity to introduce tools to fight corruption and other serious crimes and that it should benefit from it.

"The absence of one of these tools means an opportunity for corruption and other abuses to enter."


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