Standards Committee publishes report that found Michael Farrugia breached ethics

Michael Farrugia contends it was an inter-ministerial committee that proposed Mrieħel be added as a high-rise zone as parliament’s Standards Committee publishes ethics probe

Labour MP Michael Farrugia
Labour MP Michael Farrugia

Parliament’s Standards Committee on Thursday published the report that found Michael Farrugia breached ethics by giving wrong information on the inclusion of Mrieħel as a high-rise zone.

The committee chaired by Speaker Anglu Farrugia received the report from Standards Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi on Tuesday and as per procedure had to decide whether to publish it.

The MPs, as has been customary practice, agreed to publish the report and hold further sessions to evaluate the findings and decide what course of action to take.

MaltaToday revealed the report’s findings on Tuesday.

The ethics probe started after a complaint by independent election candidate Arnold Cassola back in 2020, following comments Farrugia had given the Times of Malta.

Farrugia had been asked on a meeting he had with Yorgen Fenech in 2014, a time when the MP was parliamentary secretary responsible for planning.

On the same day of the meeting, Farrugia had written to the Planning Authority to include Mrieħel as a high-rise zone as part of a new policy limiting tall buildings to certain localities. Fenech’s family company benefitted from the inclusion of Mrieħel and went on to build the Quad Towers in partnership with the Gasan Group.

Cassola had accused Farrugia of lying about his meeting with Fenech and how Mrieħel came to be included in the new policy.

The Standards Commissioner exonerated Farrugia from the claims he lied about the Fenech meeting but found he had given the newspaper wrong information as to how the recommendation for Mrieħel to be included as a high-rise zone came to be.

Farrugia had told the Times the suggestion was made by a committee evaluating public feedback although no reference was made to Mrieħel by this committee.

However, he is now insisting there were two committees –the committee evaluating public feedback and an inter-ministerial committee that discussed government policy direction. Farrugia said he had been referring to the latter committee and in a letter to MPs on Thursday said he was willing to testify to this when appearing before them.

Farrugia said he had no objection for the Standards Commissioner's report to be published but complained that he learnt of the findings in his regard from the media, presumably a reference to MaltaToday.

Azzopardi’s ethics probe concluded that Farrugia should have verified his information before replying to the newspaper.

The Standard’s Commissioner also called for a regulated system of lobbying.