Missing documents postpone Parliamentary debate

Parliament suspended for second time in tonight’s sitting as motion on Heritage Malta financial estimates lacked necessary documents 

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici
Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici

The motion on the financial estimates of two cultural heritage agencies was postponed because government failed to table the audited accounts and annual report of one of these agencies.

With most of the country busy watching the World Cup mathches from Brazil, tonight’s Parliamentary sitting was cut short after opposition MP Francis Zammit Dimech made a point of order and asked the Speaker to rule whether the motion tabled by justice and culture minister Owen Bonnici was lawful.

Parliament was set to discuss the motion on the financial estimates of Heritage Malta and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, however Zammit Dimech argued that since the motion did not include Heritage Malta’s accounts and annual report the motion was invalid.

Despite these shortcomings, the House did not annul the motion and instead a compromise was reached to hold the debate once all documents are tabled.

“It is inconceivable to have a Parliamentary debate without having all the information required by law at hand,” Zammit Dimech said, adding that while the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage’s estimates were in complete, Heritage Malta’s weren’t.

He added that Heritage Malta had revenues of €8.6 million of which €3.6 million were forked out by government and had a €2 million deficit. The MP said that the law stipulates that the motion should include the agency’s accounts, an audit report and an annual repoirt, however all three documents were missing.

“The house is not in possession of these documents and I ask you Mr Speaker to protect this House and I therefore request a ruling to postpone the motion until Heritage Malta presents its audited accounts through the minister,” the MP added.

On his part, Bonnici proposed a compromise and said that the debate could commence and continue the discussion later this week once the documents are tabled.

However while appreciating Bonnici’s proposition, Zammit Dimech insisted that the law had not been respected and with only 30 minutes left to the end of the sitting it would be “useless” to discuss the motion if the documents would be tabled mid-way through the debate in the coming days.

At this point, Bonnici replied that although he thought the documents tabled in parliament were sufficient to hold a debate, he respected Zammit Dimech’s argument and accepted the opposition’s proposal to hold the debate once all documents are presented in Parliament.

After a five minute suspension, the Speaker ruled that the debate should commence once the documents were tabled and the two sides of the House would be coming to an agreement on the date and time.