Standards Commissioner finds no ethical breach in Prime Minister’s Girgenti party

The Standards Commissioner noted in his decision that just because something is not to some people’s taste does not necessarily mean it is unethical

The Standards Commissioner said there had been no breach of the ministerial code of ethics by the Prime Minister
The Standards Commissioner said there had been no breach of the ministerial code of ethics by the Prime Minister

A leaked video showing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle celebrating during a party at Girgenti Palace did not constitute a breach of the ministerial code of ethics, an investigation by the Standards Commissioner has found.

The investigation was request by independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola after the video went viral on WhatsApp back in February.

In his report, Standards Commissioner George Hyzler noted that the principal permanent secretary had informed him that there was no specific policy on the use of properties owned by the state.

Moreover, the PPS “assured” the commissioner that the event was not a political one and that the video was taken at a “family event”.

This was confirmed by the Prime Minister who told the Commissioner that the event was a private party organised for his 45th birthday “for which no public funds were used”.

Cassola had requested that the Commissioner investigate the Prime Minister’s behaviour in the video as well as the “donation of state property for use by a political party” within the context of the country’s party financing laws.

In his conclusions, Hyzler said while it was true that ministers had to uphold the highest standards in their personal behaviour, he added: “There should be an objective basis for one to arrive at the conclusion that a minister’s behaviour in private was in breach of this obligation.”

Hyzler went one step further. “Not all that some could find to be in bad taste necessarily amounts to a breach of the code of ethics... In my view, for one to celebrate, within the limits of decency and in their own home, cannot be considered behaviour that requires censuring.”

He added that given that Muscat was “entitled to live in a state residence, it follows that, in addition to state functions, the person should have a right to organise private parties and events in that resident and to invite family and friends”.

Guests singing a political song did not mean that it was no longer a private event, the Commissioner said.

The Commissioner concluded that the Prime Minister celebrating, as well as him holding a party at his official residence did not breach the ministerial code of ethics or any other statutory obligations.

In his reply to the Commissioner, Cassola said that he “absolutely did not agree” with the conclusions, stressing that they would simply “encourage more arrogant politicians to continue abusing their positions of influence”.

READ MORE: Joseph Muscat lets his hair down at Girgenti in leaked WhatsApp vid

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