The Malta Independent 30 September 2023, Saturday
View E-Paper

GRECO: Not all recommendations implemented, revised MPs' code of ethics ‘still lacking’

Tuesday, 6 June 2023, 10:16 Last update: about 5 months ago

The Council of Europe's anti-corruption watchdog, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), has found that Malta did not implement one of its nine recommendations, regarding the code of ethics for MPs and Parliament's Standing Orders, and the country also failed to fully implement four others.

The report published on Tuesday assesses progress made in implementing the recommendations issued to the country in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report (2015) on prevention of corruption in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors.

Out of the nine recommendations, only four were "implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner". Another four were partly implemented and one was not implemented.

The report noted that, with respect to members of parliament, “a revised Code of Ethics is still lacking. The establishment of the Commissioner for Standards is to be welcomed, but progress is needed concerning awareness-raising activities and confidential counselling. Moreover, appropriate supervision and enforcement systems of the rules on declaration of assets, interests and outside activities by means of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions are also still lacking.”

One of GRECO's recommendations was that a thorough review of the current provisions of the Code of Ethics for members of parliament and the Standing Orders related to integrity, ethics, financial/activity declarations and conflicts of interest be undertaken with a view to adopting improvements that will provide more subject matter coverage, consistency and clarity, as well as guidance.

GRECO recalled that this recommendation was partly implemented, and had acknowledged the progress made with regard to reviewing the Code of Ethics for parliamentarians, which led to a new draft Code that appeared to address most of the issues referred to in the recommendation. "However, the process leading to its adoption was still at an early stage as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards submitted the draft before the Standing Committee in July 2020." The Maltese authorities then reported that a general election was held in Malta on 26 March 2022, bringing a new legislature on 7 May 2022. "The dissolution of the House of Representatives and the electoral process affected the work in progress regarding the review of the Code of Ethics for parliamentarians. According to the authorities, this will be resumed shortly alongside usual parliamentary work."

GRECO noted that the central issue of this recommendation is to review the Code of Ethics for MPs and to adopt improvements that will provide more subject matter coverage, consistency and clarity, as well as guidance in a revised/new code. "GRECO has in the previous compliance reports acknowledged procedural intentions in this direction and concluded this recommendation partly complied with. However, currently, no tangible progress has been achieved and the Code of Ethics, unfortunately remains the same now as it was at the adoption of the Evaluation Report, more than seven years ago. In addition, a new Parliament has recently been elected and will most certainly have its own agenda. There is no certainty that it will resume this issue. Therefore, GRECO can no longer consider the previously on-going work sufficient to conclude that the recommendation has been complied with, even partly, at this stage." As such, the recommendation 'has not been implemented', it reads.

The four recommendations that were only partly implemented are as follows.

Declarations of assets, conflicts of interest provisions

"GRECO recommended that measures be taken to ensure there is appropriate supervision and enforcement of (i) the rules on the declaration of assets, financial interests and outside activities, and (ii) the standards of ethics and conflicts of interest provisions applicable to members of parliament. This clearly presupposes that a range of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions be available."

It recalled that this recommendation was partly implemented in previous compliance reports. "The Act on Standards in Public Life had been adopted and a commissioner with supervisory functions appointed. However, there were no sufficient sanctions available, e.g. for late filing, false filing or failure to file the required financial reports. GRECO did not consider that the 'reputational damage' alone was equivalent to 'effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions'."

GRECO noted that the Maltese authorities did not provide new substantial information in respect of this recommendation. "They reiterate their view that the 'Ombudsman-type' sanctions by the Commissioner (i.e., to 'name' members of the parliament as being guilty of violating standards of conduct) are a sufficient dissuasive tool whose effectiveness is comparable to that of sanctions." As such, GRECO found that the situation described in the Addendum to the Second Compliance Report has not changed. "There is some supervision by the Commissioner, but the sanctions at his/her disposal are not sufficient as already concluded in previous reports." It listed this recommendation as 'partly implemented'.

Confidential counselling, raising awareness on conflicts of interest

Another recommendation was "(i) establishing a dedicated source of confidential counselling to provide parliamentarians with advice on ethical questions, conflicts of interest in relation to their legislative duties, as well as financial declaration obligations; and (ii) providing regular awareness raising activities for members of parliament covering issues, such as ethics, conflicts of interest, acceptance of gifts, honoraria, hospitality and other advantages, outside employment and activities, declarations of financial/activity interests, as well as other activities related to the prevention of corruption and the promotion of the integrity within the Parliament."

GRECO said that the recommendation was partly implemented in previous compliance reports. It "welcomed the Commissioner's new function to provide advice to public office-holders and the willingness to distinguish the regulatory from the advisory function of relevant bodies. However, it pointed out that the process was still at an early stage."

It noted that "once again, developments have been very slow. The establishment of a commissioner with the function, inter alia, to provide advice was already acknowledged in previous reports. Apart from that, no new achievements have been reported regarding awareness-raising activities for members of Parliament, or other activities related to the prevention of corruption and the promotion of integrity within Parliament." The recommendation was listed as having remained partly implemented.

Strengthening judicial accountability

GRECO had recommended that the system of judicial accountability be significantly strengthened, notably by extending the range of disciplinary sanctions to ensure better proportionality and by improving the transparency of complaints processes.

It recalls that this recommendation was partly implemented in previous compliance reports. "In the Addendum to the Second Compliance Report, GRECO welcomed that the Commission for the Administration of Justice had been made in charge of judicial discipline procedures and that the involvement of Parliament in the dismissal of judges had been discontinued. It regretted, however, that no steps had been taken to improve the transparency of complaints processes in the judiciary."

GRECO took note of the previously acknowledged achievements in respect of judicial disciplinary procedures and the current intention by the authorities to take steps to improve the transparency of complaints processes. "The actual situation remains the same as in the previous compliance report as no further steps have been taken, e.g. no published statistics of complaints received, types of breaches and sanctions, etc." The recommendation was listed as having remained partly implemented.

Training programme and mentoring

Another recommendation was that "(i) a compulsory induction training programme, including consideration of judicial ethics, be developed; (ii) that mentoring arrangements for new judges, exploring the ethical implications of appointment, be formalised; and (iii) that a regular programme of in-service training be provided along with targeted guidance and counselling on corruption prevention topics and judicial ethics for the various persons required to sit in court (judges, magistrates, and adjudicators of boards and tribunals)."

GRECO recalled that this recommendation was partly implemented in the previous compliance reports.

It said that the Maltese authorities now report that the progress concerning this recommendation has been delayed by the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic. "Among some developments, the authorities indicate the re-establishment of the Judicial Studies Committee (JSC), the body responsible for training the members of the judiciary, to which a budget of €50,000 has been allocated for training seminars. The committee offered members of the judiciary the opportunity to attend five training sessions on judicial ethics and corruption over the past year and another one is planned for November 2022. Moreover, the JSC is currently in the process of video recording training sessions in order to offer this material to new members of the judiciary upon their induction which, together with mentoring, is present but not backed up by formal structures."

GRECO noted that this recommendation comprises three distinct elements: "i) compulsory induction training, ii) mentoring arrangement for new judges and iii) regular in-service training for judges. There have been no considerable achievements in respect of the first two elements." It welcomes the rise in the Judicial Studies Committee's budget for training purposes and notes that five training sessions on judicial ethics and corruption prevention have been offered in the past year, while one was scheduled for November 2022. "These initiatives need to be further developed and consolidated. However, as no other new information has been reported by the authorities concerning a formalised compulsory induction training and mentoring, GRECO cannot conclude that this recommendation has been dealt with more than partly."


GRECO said that with respect to members of parliament, it is "very disappointing" that more than seven years after the issuing of the recommendations, "none of them have been fully complied with."

As regards the judges, constitutional changes have paved the way for reinforcing the independence, impartiality and transparency of judicial appointments procedures, the report read. "Some improvements have been noted in respect of disciplinary proceedings within the judiciary. However, induction training programmes for newly appointed judges as well as in-service training need to be reinforced, together with targeted guidance and counselling on corruption prevention and judicial ethics."

"In respect of prosecutors, the adoption of a Code of Ethics, including a number of safeguards for the independence of prosecutors in Malta has been a most welcome achievement."

"The adoption of this Second Addendum to the Second Compliance Report terminates the Fourth Round compliance procedure in respect of Malta. However, in view of the recommendations still outstanding, the Maltese authorities are urged to do more, and are invited to keep GRECO informed of future progress on their implementation."


  • don't miss