Parliament’s ethics committee has no jurisdiction over private citizen Joseph Muscat, Speaker rules

Speaker Anġlu Farrugia says law setting up Standards Commissioner makes no reference to former MPs, ruling out parliamentary probe on Joseph Muscat’s ethics breach when prime minister

Speaker Anġlu Farrugia (inset) rules that parliament's ethics committee has no jurisdiction over Joseph Muscat, who is no longer an MP
Speaker Anġlu Farrugia (inset) rules that parliament's ethics committee has no jurisdiction over Joseph Muscat, who is no longer an MP

Parliament’s ethics committee has no remit to continue probing former prime minister Joseph Muscat since he is now a private citizen, Speaker Anġlu Farrugia ruled.

Muscat resigned from parliament last October and the law setting up the Standards Commissioner makes no reference to former MPs, he noted.

The ruling concerns an investigation carried out by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler into the granting of a lucrative consultancy to former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi by the Malta Tourism Authority in December 2019. The investigation was requested by ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo.

At the time, the MTA was in Muscat’s remit after Mizzi resigned his ministerial post following Yorgen Fenech’s arrest.

Hyzler concluded last year that Mizzi’s €80,000 per year consultancy with the MTA was an abuse of power on Muscat’s side. The consultancy was terminated soon after Robert Abela became prime minister in January 2020.

Hyzler’s report was passed on to parliament’s ethics committee but in its sitting last week, MPs debated whether Muscat should be summoned to give his explanation before the committee proceeded with sanctions.

The committee adopted Hyzler's report but government MPs argued that the committee was not empowered to impose sanctions on someone who was no longer a member of the House.

READ ALSO: Standards committee adopts case report on Konrad Mizzi's MTA consultancy

In a ruling given today, the Speaker said that parliament’s ethics committee was set up at law and its workings could not make reference to parliamentary procedures in the House of Commons.

Farrugia said the law setting up the Standards Commissioner did not refer to former MPs unlike the British law that was amended to empower the commissioner to probe and impose sanctions on ex-MPs.

He ruled that the ethics committee had no power at law to proceed in any way against a private citizen who was no longer an MP.

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