Due diligence, assets declaration next reforms in line, Minister says

Bonnici says Local Enforcement Services Agency is to save the country around €250,000

Justice minister Owen Bonnici
Justice minister Owen Bonnici

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said that due diligence of the judiciary to be appointed by the government and the declaration of assets by members of the judiciary were among the upcoming changes in the justice reform.

Speaking during a debate about the Budget in Parliament, Bonnici said that the government had opted for a gradual implementation of the justice reform to ensure as little resistance to them as possible.

Bonnici added that the small claims tribunal had successfully tackled the back-log in the judgements is issued, and that its operation had improved so significantly that only two out of the three judges whose term had been completed, were going to be replaced. He added that the names of these judges would be announced on the Government Gazette in the coming weeks.

Responding to criticism that nobody had been appointed to replace magistrate Carol Peralta, who according to shadow Justice minister Jason Azzopardi, had 272 pending compilations and 28 pending inquires Bonnici said that the delay had been a result of an unexpected resignation. He further explained that Donatella Frendo would be sworn in in the coming days to replace Peralta.

He added that the government was “ready to listen to the opposition’s proposals about the reforms”, and further highlighted the government’s efforts to secure technological changes in the sector. Referring to the opposition's claims that the government had not consulted them over the justice refor, Bonnici said that the opposition had declined to contribute at the time.

Bonnici also emphasised how the government had changed the way the justice system looked at victims of drug addiction and how the government had also deidicated a department dedicated entirely to the victims of crime.

Bonnici has accused the opposition of having “double standards” in its criticism of the Public broadcasting services, and he has insisted that the government believed it should never interfere in the running of the broadcaster.

He added that many of the journalists in the newsroom had previously held posts in the nationalist government, and that they hadn’t lost their jobs due to the change in government.

Responding to criticism of the local enforcement services agency (LESA), Bonnici said that according to estimates the agency would save around €250,000, and that it was being helmed by highly experienced individuals.

In his intervention earlier on, parliamentary secretary for local governments Stefan Buontempo also stressed that the government had managed to remove the debts that local governments were facing, and to increase the financial allocation to the councils to €3 million.

He further added that the government would be allocating more funds to capital projects and that it was also committed to providing more financial assistance to various local councils in the organisation of cultural events.

Buontempo also spoke about LESA and said that the government was working on many of the proposals made by the opposition.

“Furthermore, we have already looked at issues like working hours, and ensured that wardens will no longer work solely during office hours, but they will be available on a 24 hour basis,” he said, adding that wardens were also instructed to report any issues like broken street signs to local councils.

Bonnici also spoke about the government’s commitment to the cultural scene, and pointed out that although the previous administration had applied for the restoration of Fort St. Elmo under the EU funds for 2007-2013, the actual projects had started well after the current government had come into power. He further added that the government was currently focusing on closing projects under the 2007-2013 fund package, but that it also looked forward to receiving funding under the next package for 2013-2020.

Labour MP Silvio Parnis spoke of the link between the consultative council for the south and local councils, stressing that the organisations had led to significant effects in the area already.