PAC: Labour minister breached protocol when passing on questions to witness

Speaker of the House rules that Minister Clayton Bartolo breached parliamentary procedure when passing on questions to witness beforehand in public accounts committee

Speaker Anglu Farrugia delivered the ruling on Wednesday
Speaker Anglu Farrugia delivered the ruling on Wednesday

The Speaker of the House has ruled that Minister Clayton Bartolo was incorrect and failed to act according to procedure when giving a witness in the public accounts committee his questions beforehand.

On Tuesday, Bartolo was caught passing on a rough draft of his questions to economist Gordon Cordina ahead of him testifying in front of the committee.

After the session, the committee chairman Darren Carabott asked the Speaker to deliver a ruling on the matter.

In his ruling, Speaker Anġlu Farrugia said that the committee itself can give an informal indication of the line of questioning beforehand. However, this should be done by the committee itself, and not on the individual initiative of a member on the committee.

“It would have been better if those questions were passed on to the committee through the secretary, so that the chairman shares it with the committee and is made aware of the questions prepared beforehand,” the Speaker said.

The Speaker also remarked that government ministers should not be made permanent members of the committee, and only be substituted when an MP on the committee is absent.

Bartolo, despite being a tourism minister, is a permanent member of the committee. He is the only minister on the committee, although member Andy Ellul sits on the government cabinet as a parliamentary secretary.

The Speaker warned that ministers sitting on the committee could pose a conflict of interest risk, as the more prominent government members end up scrutinising their own actions.

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