[WATCH] George Hyzler weighs in on his replacement of which there is no sign of yet

Outgoing Standards Commissioner George Hyzler says PM has assured him ‘every effort’ will be done to appoint successor ‘as soon as possible’ • ‘I am sure Opposition will be reasonable and flexible’

Outgoing Standards Commissioner George Hyzler
Outgoing Standards Commissioner George Hyzler

George Hyzler will vacate the post of Standards Commissioner at the end of the week with no sign that the government and Opposition have agreed on a replacement.

Hyzler, appointed in 2018 when the post was created, had his last public engagement on Tuesday. Tomorrow, he leaves Malta to take up his post at the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg and will formally relinquish the post of Standards Commissioner on Friday.

Asked about the lack of a replacement for his role, Hyzler said that he had assurances from the Prime Minister that he will make “every effort” to have a successor appointed “as soon as possible”.

The Standards Commissioner, like the Ombudsman and Auditor General, is appointed by parliament with a two-thirds majority.

“I have no reason to doubt that assurance and I am sure the Opposition will also do its part to be reasonable and flexible,” Hyzler said.

He appealed for flexibility and maturity from both sides of the House and hoped that both his successor and that of the Ombudsman are agreed upon at the same time. He warned against delays in the appointment of his successor.

The Ombudsman’s term expired in March last year and a replacement has not been appointed because Robert Abela and Bernard Grech could not agree on a name.

The Ombudsman’s law allows the incumbent to stay in office until a new person is appointed. No such provision exists for the Standards Commissioner, which means that after Friday the office will be vacant and unable to function.

Hyzler said he did not discuss or propose any names in talks with the Prime Minister earlier this week but suggested the inclusion of an anti-deadlock mechanism in the law to ensure a temporary replacement can be appointed until political consensus on a name is reached. 

Hyzler was taking questions from reporters after presiding over the presentation of a fourth report by the OECD to strengthen the code of ethics for ministers, MPs and other holders of public office.

The Standards Commissioner acts as an ethics watchdog on MPs and other holders of high public office. Its work was instrumental in the removal of Rosianne Cutajar from parliamentary secretary by the prime minister and the resignation of Justyne Caruana from education minister, after separate investigations that found ethical breaches by the two politicians.

Hyzler’s departure has been known for several months, given that government had nominated him as Malta’s appointee to the European Court of Auditors. Hyzler cleared the grilling at the hands of MEPs and was accepted by the European Council just before the summer.

However, so far, Robert Abela and Bernard Grech have been unable to agree on a name to replace Hyzler and it remains unclear whether the two had any meaningful discussions of late.

Hyzler's suggestion for an anti-deadlock mechanism would see either one of the Ombudsman, the Auditor General and the Standards Commissioner (all three appointed by two-thirds majority in parliament) fill in any vacancy that may arise in their respective offices on a temporary basis until a replacement is found.