Konrad Mizzi and Marlene Farrugia vie for top absentee spot in parliament

Independent MPs Konrad Mizzi and Marlene Farrugia have incurred the most fines for being absent from parliament, figures obtained by MaltaToday show

Independent MPs Marlene Farrugia and Konrad Mizzi
Independent MPs Marlene Farrugia and Konrad Mizzi

Independent MPs Konrad Mizzi and Marlene Farrugia have incurred the most fines for being absent from parliament, figures obtained by MaltaToday show.

Mizzi was absent from parliament with no justification on 26 occasions, while Farrugia was absent 25 times since the start of the legislature. On each of these occasions, the MPs were fined €50.

Mizzi’s bill for truancy tots up to €1,300, while Farrugia has had to pay €1,250 in fines.

Attendance records provided to MaltaToday by the Clerk of the House show that Nationalist MPs Jason Azzopardi and Chris Said, and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri occupy third place, having each been absent on 12 occasions without justification.

Independent MP Godfrey Farrugia, PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami and Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis are next in line with 11 absences that incurred a €50 fine.

46 MPs fined

A total of 46 MPs have been fined for unjustified absence, including Prime Minister Robert Abela (one time), Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne (1), former Opposition leader Adrian Delia (4) and PN deputy leaders Robert Arrigo (7) and David Agius (1).

The total number of absences recorded so far tot up to 222, which translate into €11,100 in fines dished out to MPs.

According to parliamentary rules, MPs are fined €50 if they are not present in parliament for a whole day when the House is convened.

This means that although MPs may be listed in official records as absent from the plenary session they will not incur a fine if they would have attended a parliamentary committee on that day.

On those occasions when multiple sessions are held on the same day, such as when the Budget is being discussed, MPs who attend only one sitting, will be marked absent from the others but not incur a fine since they would have fulfilled the criteria to be present at least once on the day.

The records show that parliament’s plenary was in session 489 times in the current legislature until the summer recess.

But not all MPs have served since the start. A number of MPs, including Opposition leader Bernard Grech were co-opted or joined the House through a casual election.

The latest MP to join the House just before the summer recess was Jonathan Attard, who was co-opted instead of Manuel Mallia who resigned to become Malta’s high commissioner in London.

Karol Aquilina’s stellar attendance rate

The records show that the MP with the highest attendance rate for the plenary session is PN MP Karol Aquilina with a whopping 99.8% attendance. Aquilina was only absent on one occasion for which there was no justification.

He is followed by PN MP Joe Ellis, who has an attendance rate of 98.9%. Ellis has only been an MP since November 2020 when he won the casual election to replace Frederick Azzopardi, who passed away.

From the 95 sittings Ellis was eligible to attend, he only failed once but was excused.

Third in line is Finance Minister Clyde Caruana with an attendance rate of 96.6%. He was co-opted to parliament in October 2020 and from the 117 sittings he could attend, Caruana missed four because he was on government work.

Hot on Caruana’s heels is PN MP David Agius with an attendance rate of 96.1%. From the 489 sittings, Agius was present 470 times. Only one absence is unjustified with the rest justified by sickness, parliamentary work, parliamentary group work and party work.

Lowest attendance rate

On the opposite end of the spectrum, independent MP Konrad Mizzi has the lowest attendance rate at 56.2%.

Mizzi started the legislature as a minister but was eventually booted out of the Labour Party in June last year after being implicated in the Montenegro wind farm controversy. He sits in parliament as an independent.

From the 489 sittings since the start of the legislature, Mizzi attended 275. On 91 occasions, his absence was justified because he was on government work from the time he served as minister.

The second worst attendance rate at 62.4% belongs to PL MP Silvio Grixti. The medical doctor attended 305 out of the 489 sittings. He was excused on 139 occasions.

Marlene Farrugia, who also sits as an independent, is the third worst performer with an attendance rate of 65.2%. The dentist was present 305 times in the plenary since the start of the legislature and was excused 100 times.

The Clerk of the House explained that when an MP’s absence from the plenary session does not automatically translate into a fine since the individual may still have been in the building at the time.

Parliament is adjourned for the summer recess and will reopen on 4 October.