Anti-corruption body reform presented in parliament by government

Justice Minister says current model ‘makes no sense’ as it has no prosecution powers

Malta’s anti-corruption body will be further empowered through a reform debated in parliament.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis pointed out the reform aims to strengthen the Permanent Commission Against Corruption formed in 1988 under a Nationalist government.

The proposal will see that when the commission finds enough proof indicating corruption, findings are referred to the Attorney General.

The reform will also allow the commission to challenge the AG’s decision if he finds no grounds to prosecute.

In his parliamentary speech, Zammit Lewis pointed out the existing model makes no sense, stating it has no prosecution powers.

Further changes will see the widening of the commission’s definition as “an act of corruption” to include breaches of public power, extortion and bribery.

Edward Zammit Lewis stated in his speech that government will be granted less discretion over the three body members. The reform proposes the chairperson is appointed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority instead of by the PM.

Two members, one by government and one by opposition, will be nominated.

Stating the reform will provide for better scrutiny, even on the AG, Zammit Lewis said opposition should not vote against the bill, as it is based on recommendations by the PN.

Due to the lack of an anti-deadlock mechanism to accommodate for a situation in which a two-thirds parliamentary majority is not reached for the election of a commission chairman, the opposition has voiced its concern in such a situation being problematic.

Opposition is arguing that the lack of such a mechanism will lead to the nominated candidate being elected through a simple majority.

10 bills on a rule of law are aimed to be enacted by the parliament’s summer recess. The reforms follow recommendations by the Venice Commission.  

Zammit Lewis concluded his parliamentary speech by stating he would be informing the commission should the bill not pass, telling them that such a hurdle is being played by the opposition itself.

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo confirmed opposition’s intentions in voting against, stating such amendments have been carried out due to international pressure.

“Government is only carrying out the reform because it has been forced to do so,” Vassallo said.

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