Min imiss jirriżenja?

responsibility

 

Meta l-Kodiċi tal-Etika dwar il-persuni fil-ħajja pubblika f’Malta jitkellem dwar ir-rigali li dawn jirċievu, dan jagħmlu bl-iskop li jnaqqas il-possibilità li tinħoloq obbligazzjoni bejn il-politiku u min jagħtih ir-rigal. Hemm miżuri differenti fil-Kodiċi tal-Etika dwar il-Membri Parlamentari u f’dak dwar il-Ministri.

Il-Ministri, jgħidilna l-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Kabinett ma jistgħux jaċċettaw rigali jew servizzi li l-entità tagħhom jistgħu jpoġġuhom f’obbligazzjoni, kemm jekk din tkun reali kif ukoll jekk tidher li tista’ tkun (regolament 58). Jiġifieri l-obbligu tal-Ministru m’huwiex li jiddikjara x’rigali irċieva, iżda li ma jaċċettahomx.

Il-każ tal-ex-Ministru Joe Cassar hu dwar tlett rigali. L-ewwel rigal kien karozza li min bigħielu ma riedx flus tagħha. Qallu biex flok ma jħallas lilu, jagħti donazzjoni lill-PN.  Iż-żewġ rigali l-oħra huma  sistema tas-sigurtà  u xogħolijiet f’razzett f’Ħad-Dingli: xogħol li sar fi ħwejġu u ħallas għalih ħaddieħor skond irċevuti ppubblikati.  Cassar ikkontesta dak li ntqal dwaru, inkluż b’diskors fil-Parlament. Fl-aħħar, għalkemm baqa’ jinnega li qatt ta’ xi forma ta’ awtorizzazzjoni biex jitħallsu kontijiet f’ismu, Cassar aċċetta li seta ġieb ruħu aħjar u li għamel żball ta’ ġudizzju (error of judgement). L-ewwel skuża ruħu u irriżenja minn kelliemi tal-grupp parlamentari tal-PN għall-Kultura u sussegwentement irriżenja ukoll minn Membru Parlamentari.

Sa ftit siegħat qabel mat-Tabib Joe Cassar irriżenja minn Membru Parlamentari, il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil kien qed jgħid li ma’ hemm l-ebda raġuni għaliex għandu jirriżenja, u dan minħabba li ma kienx hemm fondi pubbliċi involuti. Il-Partit Laburista min-naħa l-oħra kien qed jinsisti għar-riżenja.

Ir-riżenja ta’ Joe Cassar ma kienet mistennija minn ħadd. Il-Partit Nazzjonalista  esprima ruħu ċar: li l-iżball ta’ Cassar ma kienx jiġġustifika la tkeċċija (jew riżenja) mill-Partit u l-anqas riżenja minn Membru Parlamentari.

L-anqas il-Partit Laburista ma emmen li Cassar kien ser jirriżenja.  Minkejja li insista fuq ir-riżenja, ma naħsibx li l-Partit Laburista qatt ried lil Joe Cassar jirriżenja. Għax issa li Cassar irriżenja, l-PL ħoloq problema kbira għalih innifsu. Għax ir-riżenja ta’ Cassar hi issa l-kejl  li jrid iqies Joseph Muscat kull meta jkollu Ministru jew Segretarju Parlamentari fil-Kabinett tiegħu li jiżbalja inkella li jkollu jġorr responsabbiltà politika għal żbalji goffi fid-dikasteru tiegħu.

Joseph Muscat diġà keċċa lil Manwel Mallia mill-Kabinett, meta dan ma kellux il-kuraġġ morali li jerfa’r-responsabbiltà politika tiegħu w jirriżenja fid-dawl tar-rapport tal-inkjesta dwar l-inċident tal-isparatura li fiha kien involut ix-xufier tiegħu. Dan iżda kien kostrett li jagħmlu wara għoxrin ġurnata ta’ tkaxkir tas-saqajn, għax ippressat mill-medja u l-opinjoni pubblika.

Ir-riżenja, meta tkun deċiżjoni politika ġenwina, għandha tkun waħda immedjata u mhux bħala riżultat ta’ pressjoni tal-medja jew tal-opinjoni pubblika. Hekk għamlu l-politiċi ta’ stoffa f’kull parti tad-dinja demokratika. Il-politiku ġenwin m’għandux bżonn suġġerituri biex jirrealizza meta l-iżball hu gravi biżżejjed li jiġġustifika r-riżenja.

Dan il-punt ser jerġa’ jqum fid-dawl tal-investigazzjoni li qed jagħmel l-Awditur Ġenerali dwar l-esproprijazzjoni tal-binja fi Triq iz-Zekka l-Belt. Diġa ġiet konkluża investigazzjoni interna fis-servizz pubbliku u dan ir-rapport ilu f’idejn il-Prim Ministru sa minn Lulju li għadda.

Il-Prim Ministru qiegħed ikaxkar saqajh biex jieħu deċiżjoni dwar il-konklużjonijiet fir-rapport li għandu f’idejh: bl-iskuża li qed jistenna lill-Awditur Ġenerali jippreżenta r-rapport tiegħu.

Waqt li l-Prim Ministru b’solennità jiddikjara li qiegħed jistenna lill-Awditur Ġenerali, dawk ta’ madwaru (bla dubju bil-kunsens tiegħu) għalfu lil sezzjoni tal-istampa b’biċċiet mir-rapport intern li s’issa għadu kunfidenzjali. Kien ikun ħafna iktar għaqli kieku l-Prim Ministru jippubblika immedjatament ir-rapport kollu (u mhux biċċiet minnu kif jaqbel) u jieħu passi immedjati dwar dak li jirriżulta mir-rapport.  Hi ipokrezija politika li l-ewwel tiddikjara li mhux ser tippubblika r-rapport biex ma tinfluwenzax lill-Awditur Ġenerali, u mbagħad tippermetti l-pubblikazzjoni ta’ partijiet minnu.

Ftit ġranet wara li dan ir-rapport kien ippreżentat lill-Gvern, lejn tmiem Lulju 2015 kumbinazzjoni, irriżenja d-Direttur Ġenerali tad-Diviżjoni tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern. Dakinnhar intqal li din ir-riżenja kienet għal raġunijiet personali. Ovvjament, emmen jekk trid. Bosta, jiena nkluż, ma tantx huma konvinti minn dawn il-kumbinazzjonijiet.

Bosta jemmnu li d-Direttur Ġenerali, li ntqal li irriżenja għal raġunijiet personali, kien il-ħaruf tas-sagrifċċju li ġarr fuq spallejh il-piż kollu. Jekk dan hu hekk, hu żbaljat li jġorr il-piż waħdu. Huwa għalhekk ukoll li qed tikber il-pressjoni pubblika biex is-Segretarju Parlamentari Michael Falzon jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà politika għall-amministrazzjoni ħażina tat-taqsima tal-Propjetà tal-Gvern u jirriżenja.  Ir-reżistenza biex dan isir la tagħmel ġid lil Falzon u l-anqas lill-Gvern.  Lil Falzon nafu bħala bniedem raġjonevoli li bla dubju jifhem id-differenza bejn responsabbiltà personali u responsabbiltà politika. Nifhem li ftit għandu eżempji tajbin fuq xiex jimxi, peró tajjeb li jifhem li dik hi l-unika triq onorevoli.

Fil-każ ta’ Manwel Mallia damu jaħsbuha għoxrin ġurnata biex jiġi mwarrab. Joe Cassar dam jaħsibha ftit ġranet biex irriżenja. Michael Falzon għandu jrabbi ftit tal-kuraġġ biex hu ukoll jerfa’ r-responsabbiltajiet politiċi tiegħu. Huwa responsabbli għal mod kif iġibu ruħhom ta’ taħtu.

Ir-riżenja ta’ Joe Cassar ma naħsibx li tħallilu wisq alternattivi. Billi jkaxkar saqajh m’hu ser isolvi xejn.

 

pubblikat f’ILLUM : il-Ħadd 8 ta’ Novembru 2015

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Ethics in Parliament: waiting for Godot?

Standards in Public Life Bill

 

The Bill regulating Standards in Public Life has been pending on Parliament’s agenda for months.

It seems that government is in no hurry to implement its provisions, notwithstanding that this Bill is the result of discussions carried out in a Parliamentary Select Committee under the Chairmanship of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The final report of the Select Committee was submitted to Parliament on 24 March 2014. Two months later, on 20 May, a Bill entitled Standards in Public Life Act, 2014 was given a first reading in parliament. It was subsequently published in the Malta Government Gazette on  15 July 2014 and placed on Parliament’s agenda, where – 16 months later it remains .

The Bill seeks to create the necessary structures to ensure that breeches of statutory or ethical duties by specific categories of persons in public life are investigated. Monitoring and investigation will be vested in a permanent Parliamentary Committee, as well as through a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, who will be appointed subject to the approval of two-thirds of sitting MPs.

Two categories of persons in public life are subject to the provisions of the proposed legislation: MPs (including Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and Parliamentary Assistants) as well as those  employed in a position of trust in all areas of the public sector.

The proposed legislation includes updated versions of the Code of Ethics applicable to MPs and members of Cabinet but does not include the Code of Ethics applicable to directors appointed to authorities, corporations and other state-owned bodies that was first published in the early 1990s.

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life will be able to investigate allegations regarding unethical behaviour as well as the veracity of declarations on income and assets held which are made by MPs, members of Cabinet and persons employed in a position of trust as detailed in the applicable Codes of Ethics or rules made under the Public Administration Act.

The Commissioner will not be able to investigate past transgressions retrospectively. Moreover, it is proposed that there will be a time limit of two years for action to be taken on present day breeches.

In a recent interview the Speaker of the House said he is not satisfied with MPs’ assets declarations. He also said that, as things currently stand, he does not have any authority to investigate these declarations.

The Bill currently pending on parliament’s agenda assigns this specific authority to the Permanent Select Committee, which will be chaired by the Speaker, and to the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Cases such as those that recently surfaced concerning former Health Minister Joseph Cassar could be considered and acted upon within this proposed framework.

An investigation has to be concluded within six months from the receipt of an allegation. When the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has concluded an investigation, he will submit his conclusions – as well as appropriate recommendations – to the Permanent Standing Committee. The Committee will either act on the recommendations or else opt for further investigations.

In respect of non-MPs, the Committee will either take a decision, or, if the matter so requires, refer the case for further investigations by the Commissioner of Police or the Permanent Commission Against Corruption. In respect of MPs, it will refer the recommended decisions to the House of Representatives for a decision.

Most readers would  express serious doubt as to whether, given the present composition of Malta’s Parliament, it is possible to have an objective assessment of recommendations made by the Commissioner or the Standing Committee on allegations of unethical behaviour or misleading and/or incorrect declarations of assets.  It is difficult to imagine how Malta’s Parliament, divided as it is into two opposing camps, could take objective decisions on cases similar to that of former Health Minister Joe Cassar. It goes without saying that the debate and decisions would be highly charged along partisan lines.

I may be wrong, but, in my opinion, unless the decision-taking procedures proposed in the Bill Regulating Standards in Public life are heavily revisited, the proposals may not lead to an effective instrument with which to address unethical behaviour by holders of public office.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 November 2015