'Standards Commissioner not fit for purpose' - PN says it was right to oppose Azzopardi's nomination

The Nationalist Party said that Joseph Azzopardi failed to investigate thoroughly Michael Farrugia's meeting with Yorgen Fenech on the day he recommended Mrieħel becomes a high-rise zone

Standards' Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi
Standards' Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi

The Nationalist Party said that the Standards Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi was not fit for purpose and said that it was clear that it was right to oppose his appointment.

In a statement on Saturday, PN MPs Ryan Callus and Mark Anthony Sammut said that during the Standards Committee on Friday, it became clear that Azzopardi failed to investigate several important statements made by former Parliamentary Secretary Michael Farrugia about his meeting with Yorgen Fenech in Castille, the same day he sent a letter to the Planning Authority to include Mrieħel in the high-rise building policy.

“We have a Standards Commissioner who either washes his hand and chooses not to investigate, or pretends to investigate without going into detail as required by law to do,” the PN MPs said.

Lat August Azzopardi found that Michael Farrugia had breached ethics by giving wrong information on the inclusion of Mrieħel as a high-rise zone.

PN said that Farrugia claimed that during the meeting with Yorgen Fenech in the presence of Johann Buttigieg, they did not discuss high-rise policy. It added that Johann Buttigieg also denied discussing the high-rise.

“The Commissioner relied on them and did not feel he had to send for the other witness of that meeting, Yorgen Fenech,” Callus and Sammut said.

They said that when Azzopardi was asked why, he replied that he did not send it to him because criminal proceedings were ongoing, and then if he was his lawyer he would have advised him not to speak.

PN noted that Buttigieg testified that there were other people present, including Yorgen Fenech's architects and probably even the Secretary of the former Parliamentary Secretary who "may have been taking minutes".

“When asked whether he asked who these people were, and whether he sent at least for the Secretary of the former Parliamentary Secretary, the Standards Commissioner said that he did not feel the need,” the PN MPs said.

They said that when asked whether he had requested a copy of the minutes, Azzopardi stated that he did not feel the need to request them.

With regards to Buttigieg’s claim that during that period, they were meeting with various operators interested in land reclamation, the Standards Commissioner said he did not verify the veracity of it, PN said.

PN also said that when Azzopardi was asked whether the letter sent to the Planning Authority Board, with instructions to include Mrieħel in the high-rise building policy, he replied that it appears it was sent with a messenger, but claimed that he did not dare to investigate the time to see if it was sent after the meeting with Fenech.

“Therefore, the investigation in this case seems to have largely failed to verify the facts and allegations surrounding the reason why this meeting took place and whether Michael Farrugia told the whole truth when asked about it. For the Opposition this is a confirmation that Joseph Azzopardi should never have been Commissioner for Standards,” PN said.

“Malta has lost an important pillar in good governance. It is no coincidence that Robert Abela was so hardened to appoint Azzopardi who removed the two-thirds requirement in the selection of the Commissioner for Standards.”

‘PN either gets its way or else it attacks the institutions’ – Labour Party

The Labour Party said that the Opposition either gets its way or else it tries to attack the institutions.

“When PN likes the decisions taken by the institutions, it quotes them to take political advantage. When the decisions are not to its liking, it tactically puts pressure on the person occupying the institution so that they eventually decide in their favour," PL said.

It said that the Nationalist Party and the establishment that “controls” it always do that, be it against the Standards Commissioner or any institution.

“The Labour Party emphasises that the institutions carry out their job in accordance to the law and not as per the pressure from the establishment that believes the country should serve them.”