Standards committee reprimands Rosianne Cutajar over ethics breach

Parliament's Standards Committee decided to reprimand Rosianne Cutajar but rejected a proposal by Opposition MPs for a one-month suspension from the House

Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar arriving at Parliament (photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar arriving at Parliament (photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

The Standards in Public Life committee has not adopted a resolution put forward by Opposition members to suspend MP Rosianne Cutajar for a month from the House.

Last week, in a rare consensus among government and Opposition MPs, the standards committee accepted the conclusions of a report that found Rosianne Cutajar breached ethics when failing to declare income from a property deal for Yorgen Fenech.

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler concluded in July that Cutajar breached ethics when she failed to declare brokerage fees she received from the deal in her parliamentary declaration. He also recommended that his findings be passed on to the Tax Commissioner for further investigation.

However, it’s the parliament’s ethics committee, chaired by Speaker Anġlu Farrugia, that has a final say on reports from the standards chief.

Testifying before the committee, the MP insisted sanctions should not be handed down before Tax Commissioner Martin Gaerty concludes his investigation into the case.

“I didn’t know I had to declare gifts,” she said.

She also insisted she never received gifts to help anyone politically.

Lawyer Edward Gatt also delivered a short statement, saying it would be premature to hand out the sanction before the tax man’s report is concluded.

Opposition MP Therese Comodini Cachia said she would have expected Rosianne Cutajar to come before the committee “and acknowledge her wrong doing.”

“Instead of an MP who learnt her lesson, and is willing to improve, we have one who admits to receiving the money, because it was a gift, a birthday present,” she said. “I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she did not respect you or your office Mr Speaker.”

Justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis said the committee has set an “important example” on how the House should work.

He also insisted she paid a high political price when she was suspended from the executive. “She shouldn’t pay the price of suspension.”

Government Whip Glenn Bedingfield agreed with the statement.

Following a vote, the committee decided to reprimand the Labour MP.

Before the vote was passed, requests by the Opposition MPs for the reprimand wording to be divulged to the committee were not met.