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Committee to vet political appointments has no teeth, Greens say

Justice  minister’s plans for parliamentary committee to vet political appointments will only have advisory role

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
26 September 2017, 11:44am
A parliamentary committee to screen political appointments is being proposed by the justice minister
A parliamentary committee to screen political appointments is being proposed by the justice minister
A parliamentary committee to scrutinise political appointments without the power to stop them, was a sieve with large holes, the Green Party said today.

Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Carmel Cacopardo was reacting to the setting-up of a proposed committee to vet political appointments in the House, saying the small step forward was a far cry of what is expected in modern democracies.

“The proposed law has not been published yet and so all we know is based on Owen Bonnici’s declarations. According to Bonnici, government, will continue to have the last word, but will seek the advice of a parliamentary committee before making political appointments of ambassadors and the chairmen of a number of public entities. This is a small step forward, however the scrutiny that parliament will be empowered to make seems very limited. Questions can only be sent in writing and will be limited only to professional competence,” Cacopardo said.

The AD leader said the limitations on parliamentary powers of scrutiny was a joke.

“In practice the scrutiny which can be done is very limited and will hardly serve its purpose unless the designated persons are incompetent people.

“We are told that appointments will go through a parliamentary ‘sieve’. But this sieve will have very large holes.”

AD said it had proposed in its 2017 manifesto that a committee decides and not merely advises on public appointments through a public hearing and without limitations.

Heads of regulatory bodies and politically appointed representatives in overseas post are to be scrutinised by a new consultative parliamentary committee, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici announced.

The draft law will come into effect this week.

The committee will be made up of three government members, one of whom will chair the committee, and two Opposition members.

The reform means minister must consult this new committee before appointing a new head of regulatory body or non-career diplomat as ambassador or high-ranking representative.
The committee’s recommendation will not be binding, but the scrutiny will be public.
The committee will have the option to keep proceedings secret, if it so chooses.
Bonnici sad this was a “first step” towards making the process of filling more in line with EU practices.

Ambassadors, High Commissioners, or principle representative of Malta to countries where they are appointed as resident Ambassadors, will be subject to this protocol, as well as:

The heads of the Central Bank, Malta Financial Services Authority, Regulator of Energy and Water Services, Transport Authority, Communications Authority, Gaming Authority, Planning Authority, Environment and Resources Authority, Voluntary Organisations Commissioner, Lands Authority Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, Medicines Authority, Tourism Authority, National Commission for Higher and Further Education Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

While the PN said the parliamentary committee scrutinising public appointments was a step in the right direction, it was one that comes too late for the PN.

The Opposition noted that the move had been proposed by the PN for the past three years. “During the past five years, the Labour administration has appointed scandalous individuals who were not assigned the job out of merit but because of their loyalty to the party,” the PN said in a statement.

The Opposition will still take part in the committee to ensure that public appointments are “awarded out of merit, not according to political loyalty.”

“We will not allow the party to participate in a committee that serves only to justify decisions that have been made behind the scenes.”

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.