'Institutions being castrated by removal of two-thirds Parliamentary approval requirement' - ADPD

The Greens said that by being solely appointed by Government, the Standards Commissioner would feel at ease to ignore breaches

ADPD - The Green Party held a press conference in Valletta on Saturday morning (Photo: ADPD)
ADPD - The Green Party held a press conference in Valletta on Saturday morning (Photo: ADPD)

ADPD - The Green Party said that the removal of the two-thirds Parliamentary approval requirement for the nomination of the Standards Commissioner was castrating and leading to dysfunctional institutions.

During a press conference in Valletta on Saturday, ADPD Public Relations Officer Brian Decelis said that the proposed amendments to the Standards in Public Life Act would make it easier for the Government to avoid being faced with ‘uncomfortable’ reports published by the standards’ office.

He added that if Commissioner for Standards in Public Life was solely appointed by the Government, they would feel at ease to choose not to investigate breaches of such standards or not to investigate in detail.

Decelis remarked that the Ombudsman had recently complained that 35 reports presented for Parliament’s attention between 2020 and last year have been completely ignored by Parliament.

“These reports are presented to Parliament after being previously referred to the Office of the Prime Minister which either refused to take the necessary action and also after being ignored by the Civil Service or the entity involved,” Decelis said.

He said that everyone should be concerned by the comments made by the Ombudsman when he said that the citizens felt more aggrieved by the MP’s inactions.

“Instead of seeking to strengthen the institutions, the Government is proposing a mechanism that will enable it to appoint whoever it deems fit as Commissioner for Standards in Public Life without seeking a wide consensus. This is a slap in the face of all institutions,” Decelis concluded.

ADPD Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said that only persons within the Government’s circles were nominated for these institutions.

“Many a time only persons within their own circles are proposed at the exclusion of others who may be able to give their beneficial contribution to the country. Indeed civil society should also have a role in such appointments,” Cacopardo said.

He pointed out that the government also delayed the appointment of the Ombudsman for more than a year to allow it to be able to barter it with that of the Commissioner of Standards in Public Life.

Cacopardo stated that the latter role became vacant “thanks to the Prime Minister’s machiavellian maneuvers”.

He said that whenever consensus was reached on such appointments, their reports and recommendations were either ignored or quietly forgotten about.

Cacopardo remarked that it was only thanks to public opinion that resignations such as that of the Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana and Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar, were handed in.

He also mentioned that a similar situation was ongoing at the moment, with Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri not being sacked for not taking immediate action against the Prison Director.

Former Prison Director Robert Brincau resigned from his post after he was convicted of threatening a man with a handgun and slightly injuring him during an argument at the beach.

Cacopardo said that on paper the proposed amendments were presented as an anti-deadlock mechanism when the required two-thirds of Parliamentary approval is not met.

“However, the proposals are seeking to remove the primary objective of the current law, that of seeking the widest consensus possible for the appointment of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life by Parliament.”

“It is not sufficient that the nominee is a person of integrity. The fact that they may not be acceptable to the Opposition may be a sufficient enough reason once there are valid reasons. This also puts the onus on the Opposition to be accountable and to act in a responsible manner too.”

Cacopardo said that the aim behind the two-thirds of Parliamentary approval was for the widest possible consensus to be attained in the appointment of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.

“Removing this requirement undermines the whole process, leading to the institutions being effectively castrated,” Cacopardo concluded.