MP says government is behind schedule in EU fund absorption

PN deputy leader calls for better administrative support for MPs

Foreign affairs spokesperson Tonio Fenech said that the government was severely behind schedule in the absorption of EU funds under the  2014-2020 programme.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate, Fenech said that this contrasted greatly with the government’s criticism of previous administrations for absorbing funds slowly.

“The sudden absorption of funds in these past two years was only possible because the projects the previous administration had started working on were major, long-term projects,” he said.

“If the PN hadn’t started the projects so early on, then we wouldn’t have projects like the Oncology centre, restoration of bastions and even the flood relief project among others,” he added.

Fenech criticised the government for not being clear about what projects EU funds were going into in the 2016 Budget, opting instead to list €99 million were being absorbed so far.

“The lack of information is begging the question whether or not the government even has plans in mind for these projects,” he added.

Fenech also made particular reference to the €11 million lost in the Coast Road project because Transport Malta did not respect public procurement rules. The money, amounting to 25% of the total funds, will be reinvested elsewhere. The financial correction has meant that the government must divert the money towards other road projects.

“We need a realistic and transparent estimate of whether Malta will be losing any of its EU funds,” he added.

Fenech further stressed that employment would be effected directly if these funds were not absorbed in time, and questioned whether the rise in employment was owed to sustainable means.

He further questioned how EU funds were going to be used to affect the education and health sectors, as well as SMEs.

PN deputy leader calls for better administrative support for MPs

Shadow Finance minister Mario De Marco said that MPs required more resources to be able to carry out the necessary research.

“As subjects and laws have become increased in volume and detail, then we need to have better resources at our disposal,” he said, adding that although research analysts had been introduced this year, better use of resources needed to be secured.  

In his intervention, De Marco also called for better transparency to allow MPs to scrutinise the laws, and therefore carry out their job more effectively.

“It’s not just smaller issues like PQ’s that are often answered cryptically, but the secrecy also seeps into more important issues like the Electrogas agreement, as well as the public transport provider agreement among others,” he said.

He questioned how society could scrutinize the discussions made if people were left in the dark, particularly in issues of national interest.

“We need to discuss whether it is feasible to have part-time MPs, in the name of better management and expertise,” he added, pointing out however, that this needed to be partnered with other initiatives to secure better depth and understanding for MPs.

Using the appointment of the judiciary in the US as an example, De Marco also referred to the possibility of holding rigorous parliamentary hearings ahead of appointments of posts like police commissioners, members of the judiciary and constitutional posts among others.

“Grilling candidates in this way should be considered to avoid controversies,” he added.

Public Administration spokesperson Censu Galea agreed that MP’s needed to be provided with more resources, but added that he was against the idea of full time MPs, as it was too uncertain a position to hold on its own.

“If we do so, then we might end up with a situation where only people who are well off, or very advanced in their careers would afford to be MP’s,” he said.

Opposition whip David Agius, on the other hand, called for further developments to ensure that the parliament had autonomous administration and he further called for the introduction of Twitter feeds for parliamentary sittings among others.

Agius said that he looked forward to constitutional changes and encouraged MPs to go on with these changes throughout the coming year, and to continue efforts in the permanent committees;

“We should use times outside the usual plenary session time frames to hold committee meetings so that they are given more importance and so that people can follow them more closely.”