Carmelo Abela's €7,000 advert 'clearly intended to boost his image', Commissioner concludes

The report by the Commissioner of Standards concerns public funds used to finance an advert to boost the image of Carmelo Abela

A case report by the Commissioner for Standards on an abuse of public funds by Carmelo Abela has been published.

The report found that Abela's conduct constitutes a breach of several articles of the Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, specifically articles 4.9, 4.10, 5.3 and 7.4.

While it is up to the Committee to choose what remedy ought to be applied in this circumstance, the Commissioner pointed towards practice in the UK House of Commons, where if an MP is found to have misused public funds, they are required to refund the amount to the state.

In this case, the costs amounted to €7,012.98.

The report is based on a complaint by the NGO Repubblika, and concerns an allocation of public funds within the Ministry within the Office of the Prime Minister, headed by Abela, for an alleged political advertising campaign in print media.

In his report, the Commissioner concludes that the advert was "clearly intended to boost the image of Minister Carmelo Abela rather than provide any information of value to the general public, given the prominence of the photograph and the absence of informative content on the work of the minsitry".

He added that, by the Ministry's own admission, the use of public funds for the advertisement was approved by "the Public Service", meaning career public officers serving in his ministry.

"They should not have been placed in the position of having to approve funding for such an advertisement," the Commissioner stated.

During a committee meeting on Wednesday, the Standards in Public Life committee resolved to publish the document in question.

In a previous sitting, Labour MPs within the committee refused to attend meetings to discuss the report as it was reportedly leaked to the media.

Subsequently, the Commissioner penned a letter to the committee to explain that the report was unlikely to have been leaked directly, while arguing that he should hold an element of power to decide when and whether to publish case reports drawn up by him.

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In reaction to the report's publication, Repubblika said that it expects that Parliament will order Abela to reimbuse the money he spent on the advert.

"Repubblika also expects government to make rules and guidelines to stop this abuse once and for all, particularly now that the general election is approaching," the statement reads.