[WATCH] Police should investigate misuse of public funds by ministers on social media – PN

Ministers who misused public funds by paying for social media advertising on their personal pages should return the money immediately, the Nationalist Party says

File Photo
File Photo

Police should investigate ministers in the wake of findings by the Standards Commissioner, who found that public funds were misused to generate material for personal Facebook pages, the Nationalist Party said.

Last week, Standards Commissioner George Hyzler concluded that this was an abuse because the ministers concerned used public resources to raise their personal and political profiles.

In a press conference, PN MP Karol Aquilina said that the ministers involved should immediately return the money spent.

“It is their responsibility as politicians to return the money they spent on their personal pages,” he said.

The PN said government spent upwards of €1,285,000 in online adverts, with the office of the prime minister being the biggest spender with over €553,000.

“This is a clear case of bad governance, where the distinctions between government and party are not made,” Aquilina said.

Citing the report, Aquilina mentioned three ministers who were identified as misusing the funds. He noted that neither have reacted to the report, with Aquilina saying that they should be shouldering responsibility.

He also pointed out how this is the second time government ministers have been called out in reports over the misuse of funds on social media. Konrad Mizzi was found to have uploaded partisan political content in a Facebook page which appeared to be an official page administered by the Ministry for Tourism.

PN MP Therese Commodini Cachia also spoke about the low rating Malta achieved in the press freedom index, calling out government for its lack of aid in helping journalism in the country.

She also spoke how government hijacked the public broadcaster and social media in an effort to push its own agenda.

She called for a dialogue to better protect journalists from harassment and provide better financial help to media houses.

Appointment of judiciary by President   

Karol Aquilina was asked about government’s proposal to the Venice Commission for judicial appointments to be made by the president after candidates are vetted by the Judicial Appointments Committee.

This would shift the power of appointment from the prime minister to the president. However, no recommendations have so far been made on a new method of appointing the president.

“As an Opposition we believe that changes should be enacted after public consultation... if there are proposals which change the functions of the president, then they should be discussed with everyone,” he said.

“We will need to see what powers the president will have. That means now should be the time to introduce a two thirds majority by law for the appointment of the president, which the PN has always insisted on,” he concluded.