The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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TMID Editorial: Desperately slow progress

Monday, 25 March 2024, 11:40 Last update: about 20 days ago

The word ‘progress’ is something of a buzzword in the modern age – a word with positive connotations used to justify a move forward even if it comes to the detriment of other things. 

For example, we’ve seen this word used to justify economic growth, even if it comes at the cost of thing such as the environment.  And in that sense, the government has been proud of how accelerated progress has been: the economy has grown, and the country’s environment has deteriorated in equal measures.

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Yet when it comes to other subjects which are a bit more clear-cut, the progress has been at times desperately slow.

In a compliance report published on Thursday, The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) concluded that Malta has implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner just four of the 23 recommendations contained in the Fifth Round Evaluation Report which dated back to 2019.

Ten recommendations have been partly implemented and nine have not been implemented, GRECO said.

This means that GRECO concluded that Malta “is not in sufficient compliance” with the recommendations that were given in 2019 and the organisation said that Malta’s head of delegation must provide a report on the implementation of the outstanding recommendations by 31 December 2024.

The government reacted to the report by spinning that "Malta has implemented, or is implementing the majority of recommendations", and detailed all the positives that GRECO had noted in its report – conveniently leaving out the negatives.

"The report noted government reforms in favour of the rule of law and good governance. It also noted progress in the reinforcement of diverse offices like the Ombudsman, the National Audit Office, the Office of the Standards Commissioner and the Internal Audit and Investigations Department, as well as the continued implementation of the National Strategy against Fraud and Corruption," the government said. The government also said the report "satisfactorily noted a record increase in public trust in the police force."

However, the government failed to mention the important recommendations which it is yet to touch.

Among those recommendations is an analysis of the Freedom of Information Act, which GRECO said “appears to have been abandoned” and which carries significance within the context of the government being especially difficult with being transparent about certain things such as how public money is spent (yes, we’re looking at you especially, Clayton Bartolo and Johann Grech).

Another is on the introduction of ad-hoc disclosure of conflicts of interest, as well as clear rules regarding the side activities by persons in top executive functions, which GRECO said “are at a complete standstill.”

GRECO also said that “no new developments are reported” regarding the introduction of legislation allowing criminal investigation bodies to seek and use special investigative techniques when investigating corruption offences.

These are all extremely important reforms which the country needs if it is to continue to improve its good governance record, and yet the government has registered no progress on them.

There has been progress, no doubt on that, but it has been desperately slow, as GRECO’s recommendations were issued in 2019 – now half a decade ago.

With the deadline now set for the end of the year by GRECO, the government would do well to speed its work on these reforms up.

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