Bernard Grech accuses Prime Minister of dragging his feet on key appointments

Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech says that he has not yet been consulted by the Prime Minister Robert Abela on the appointment of a new Standards Commissioner and an Ombudsman, both which require a two-thirds vote in parliament

Opposition and PN leader Bernard Grech (Photo: PN)
Opposition and PN leader Bernard Grech (Photo: PN)

Bernard Grech says he has not been consulted by Prime Minister Robert Abela on the appointment of a new Standards Commissioner and an Ombudsman, accusing him of dragging his feet.

The Opposition leader said Abela's reluctance to engage in meaningful dialogue on these constitutional posts was because the Prime Minister wanted to keep doing as he pleased.

Grech was being interviewed by Dione Borg on Net FM on Thursday afternoon.

“The country needs working institutions and it cannot do without a Standards Commissioner and an Ombudsman. Robert Abela is dragging his feet since he wants to keep on doing as he pleases,” Grech said.

The current Standards Commissioner George Hyzler will assume his new post in European Court of Auditors at the end of September, while Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud’s term ended in March last year.

Mifsud has remained in office, as dictated by the law, because there has not been political consensus on his replacement.

The Ombudsman and the Standards Commissioner are appointed by parliament with a two-thirds majority vote, which means cross-party support is necessary.

Abela and Grech have so far been unable to agree on names to fulfill both roles and no substantive talks have been held since last March’s election.

Poverty and quality of life

Grech said that Abela abandoned the 90,000 Maltese and Gozitans there were at a poverty risk.

One in five people are at risk of falling into poverty or social exclusion, according to figures published by the National Statistics Office (NSO) this week.

Government is alienated by corruption and internal issues, Grech said. “They are not focused on issues concerning people, like poverty. I am not only talking about material poverty – which is most pertinent, but also that relating to the quality of life.”

He emphasised that traffic congestion and poor road work management, as well as excessive construction activity were the reason behind youths’ desire to leave the island.

An EY survey had found that 70% of Maltese youths said they would prefer to live and work elsewhere in Europe.

Grech also addressed the recent fatalities at construction sites and on Malta’s roads, saying the numbers were worrying.

He also spoke of the importance of the upkeep of both the rural and the urban environment, mentioning how the outdoor area of St Vincent De Paul Residence was in a bad state.

Grech touched upon the PN’s long-standing battle against the “overcharging” on utility bills. “This is theft, blatant theft. Robert Abela is robbing you through the utility bills,” Grech said. He said the PN was organised and determined to maintain pressure on the government over the matter.

In a recent judgment in a case filed by two consumers, the judge declared that the method used by utilities billing company ARMS to bill consumers for their electricity consumption was not only incorrect but illegal.