‘I will no longer accept half-truths from MPs’, George Hyzler tells ethics committee

StandardsCommissioner George Hyzler gives MPs stern rebuke in committee discussion on Carmelo Abela print advert ethics breach

Standards czar George Hyzler has told the Standards in Public Life Committee he will no longer hold back from penalising MPs when they refuse to present the requested information.

The standards committee was discussing a case report by Hyzler on an abuse of public funds by Carmelo Abela for an alleged political advertising campaign in print media.

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 he was not referring to this specific case, Hyzler warned that he will no longer accept being provided with limited information when investigating a case.

“I will start penalising,” he warned.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis argued that while the advert featured Carmelo Abela, information presented was related to his role, and did not feature any political statements.

“It was partisan rather than political. The slogans used described his job as minister within the office of the prime minister, and work he was expected to do,” Hyzler argued.

Zammit Lewis said that with the lack of guidelines, the advert can be interpreted differently.

“While I will always make myself available in contributing for better guidelines, this was not a question of guidelines, in my opinion, the advert is for the minister’s personal promotion,” he said.

Over why the advert was not published on Nationalist newspaper ‘Il-Mument’, Hyzler said that he believes the minister’s version that the price quotation provided was double that that of other newspapers.

Hyzler also remarked that adverts, be them on social media or newspapers, should not be for the minister’s personal promotion, but to showcase the ministry’s work. “If the ministers want, they can always then link back on their social media profiles.”