Ministers creating obstacles to accountability, AD says in Ombudsman’s meeting

Green Party concerned at Ombudsman’s complaints on government impediments to access to information

Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud
Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud

A delegation from Alternattiva Demokratika held a meeting with Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud and planning and health commissioners Alan Saliba and Charles Messina, to discuss the latest Ombudsman’s annual report.

“It makes for a very worrying read because it demonstrates clearly that the political class’s understanding of the fundamentals of accountability are incredibly weak,” chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said.

“The country was shocked that the Ombudsman had to go to Court and wait for the Court’s decision on appeal merely to open an investigation on alleged irregularities in the management of appointments and promotions in the Armed Forces. This is one of the country’s biggest obstacles being created by the political class to thwart accountability mechanisms,” Cacopardo said.

“The fact these obstacles are created by members of the Cabinet does not bode well for democratic accountability in this country. Democracy is not only the right to vote but the acceptance that mechanisms of accountability are respected and not thwarted.”

Cacopardo was accompanied by secretary-general Ralph Cassar and deputy secretary-general Anna Azzopardi.

The Ombudsman has complained in his report of a lack of will of departments, ministries and the authorities to provide information requested, with the consequence that investigations are slowed down and citizens seeking redress have to wait much longer than necessary.

Additionally, Mifsud said non-disclosure clauses in various agreements with different government entities through which essential public services such as energy and health are run on commercial lines, are leading to claims that there is no obligation to be accountable and provide information other than that stipulated in contracts. 

The Ombudsman has said this refusal of access to information or reluctance to allow disclosure was becoming the country’s leadership style. “Outright refusal or extreme reluctance to disclose information can be said to have become a style of government that is seriously denting the openness and transparency of the public administration.”

“It is our duty not to let this happen,” Cacopardo said.

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