The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Government won’t say whether communications coordinators have taxpayer-funded mobile phone

Sabrina Zammit Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 10:54 Last update: about 11 days ago

Every government minister has skirted around questions on whether their communications coordinators have been provided with a taxpayer-funded mobile phone.

PN MP Eve Borg Bonello filed a total of 54 parliamentary questions between March and April this year related to the government’s communications coordinators.

In half of these, the MP asked the ministers directly to confirm whether their communications coordinators have a taxpayer-funded telephone line, while in the other half she directly requested their work contracts. Every minister referred the PN MP to the Manual on Resourcing Policies and Procedures in response to each question.

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Upon reviewing the document, there was a list of positions within the government, including Communication Secretaries. The text indicated that they 'may be issued with a fully-expensed mobile telephone.' However, the PN MP did not receive a clear answer to her questions regarding whether these coordinators have a paid telephone line or not.

Communication coordinators serve as the primary contact for journalists seeking information from each respective ministry within the government. However, just weeks after the general elections of 2022, the phone numbers of these communications coordinators disappeared from the government’s website, leaving only their e-mail address.

This was despite the phone numbers being listed together with the emails for several years prior. The reason for this decision, as well as the specific date it was made, remains unknown.

This decision raises several questions about its rationale, especially considering that communication coordinators are responsible for handling communications across various ministries. As the primary point of contact, this raises questions about why a decision was taken to restrict the channel of communication between journalists and the government, especially when the same entity is advocating for transparency.

On the topic of transparency, it was reported last December that Prime Minister Robert Abela and his 18 ministers have failed to answer 750 parliamentary questions since the elections of March 2022.  This data was revealed by Speaker Anglu Farrugia in figures tabled in Parliament.

Farrugia tabled the figures in a reply to a parliamentary question by PN MP Chris Said. The Ministry responsible for the largest number of unanswered PQs was Education Minister Clifton Grima, with a total of 173 unanswered PQs.

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo followed, with 77 unanswered PQs. Ministers Anton Refalo and Aaron Farrugia – back when he was minister – each have 67 unanswered questions. Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon has yet to reply to 56 questions.

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