Former MPs don’t want public declarations of MPs’ assets because of ‘disrespectful gossip’

‘Five-year freeze on ministers taking up private work in their field of administration’ says association of former Malta MPs

The association of former MPs wants the Speaker to give lessons in the Constitution to newly-minted MPs
The association of former MPs wants the Speaker to give lessons in the Constitution to newly-minted MPs

The association of former Maltese MPs has come out in support of the creation of a full-time parliament, entering a debate over conflicts of interest held by Malta’s part-time parliamentarians.

Maltese MPs work on a ‘part-time’ basis, retaining the right to retain their professional employment throughout a legislature, unless they are government ministers.

The creation of full-time MPs has been a mainstay of newspaper editorials, but the subject become even more pronounced recently with cases where MPs’ professional interests intersected with their political views.

The association’s secretary Lino Debono said full-time MPs should be financially independent but medical specialists and doctors should be allowed to do voluntary work inside government hospitals.

“All other professionals do not need practice apart from still enjoying remuneration from their associate companies,” Debono said, referring to professionals who are partners in firms.

The association also called for staff and offices to assist MPs in research work, and further added that revolving doors rules should apply for MPs: “No minister should, for a period of five years, be engaged in any field of work pertaining to a role or entity that previously belonged to their ministry or office. The association understands that the same should apply as in the EU when a former high official is prevented from entering their same field of work.”

The association however said it was not in favour of having MPs publicise their declaration of assets in the House, claiming it generated “envy and disrespectful gossip”.

Every MP and minister in Malta follows a strict parliamentary tradition to declare their commercial interests, bank account levels, liabilities and other assets. “We suggest that the Ombudsman reviews the declaration of properties and bank loans, and then only after an audit, would these be presented in the House if something irregular is found. “This would protect MPs’ privacy and ensure a real audit of their submissions,” Lino Debono said.

The association also wants prospective candidates for the elections to be given lectures about the Constitution and how Parliament works and its regulations by their own political parties. “When a new candidate is elected, during the two months prior to Parliament’s opening, it will be the Speaker’s Office that will be obliged to issue lectures of how Parliament works and how to behave.”