The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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‘All MPs should work the hours that they are paid for,’ Abela says when asked about Rosianne Cutajar

Albert Galea & Sabrina Zammit Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 19:47 Last update: about 9 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that all Members of Parliament have a duty to work all of the hours that they are paid for with taxpayer’s money.

Abela was fielding questions from journalists on a National Audit Office report which found that there were "concerns of negligence in the disbursement of public funds by all involved” in a consultancy contract awarded to former Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar.

The report used the words 'irregular' and 'fraudulent' with reference to the nature of this employment. The report also highlights the NAO's concern that the contract had been backdated.

Cutajar, who was forced to resign from the Labour Party in April this year after chats between her and alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder mastermind emerged, insisted in comments outside Parliament that she had done nothing wrong.

Abela referred to her resignation when asked about whether any further action should be taken on the case.

“I took the political decisions which I had to take months and years ago; I didn’t stay waiting for the Auditor’s report,” Abela said.

Asked whether further action should be taken against ITS’ Pierre Fenech and Tourism Ministry official Kevin Borg over the granting of the contract, Abela said that the NAO’s report indicated that they were both simply following directions from the person above them – then Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.

Although Abela did not mention Mizzi by name, he said that he had taken the necessary political decision around four years ago.

Asked by The Malta Independent whether he felt that criminal action should be taken against Cutajar and all those involved in the granting of the contract, Abela again reiterated that the decisions he himself could take had been taken.

He continued that it was his understanding from the report that the Auditor General had said that Cutajar did not carry out the necessary work which she was paid to do – something which, he pointed out, Cutajar had contested.

Abela said that if what the Auditor General is saying is correct, then it is a question of whether the money which Cutajar was paid – or the part of it she didn’t do the necessary work for – should be returned or not.

“It is a question of a civil nature… we need to maintain that distinction between what is civil and what is criminal,” he said.

He continued that he had taken the necessary political decisions months and years ago and observed that today people who had doubts about those decisions were fully understanding why they were taken.

Asked whether he condemns Cutajar, Abela said that he condemns any MP, irrespective of which side of the House they occupy, who does not work the hours that he or she is paid for from taxpayer’s funds.

He questioned whether every MP in Parliament is working the hours they are paid for, noting that this has to be the standard for MPs who receive an honoraria for being in Parliament and also those who are employed within the public sector – a point which Abela noted he is informed that there are more Opposition MPs working in the public sector than there are government MPs.

“They are all expected to work the same amount of hours as any other worker and should not expect to have some sort of exemption from the workplace because they are an MP,” Abela said.

He later expanded on this saying that he understands that some MPs are “not necessarily going into their place of work every day.”

On whether he accepts the NAO’s report, Abela said that he had always been consistent in his acceptance of NAO reports, and said that it would be a contradiction if he were to disagree with this report when he took a political decision in relation to this case months ago when the NAO itself had only just started investigating the case.

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