Owen’s latest gimmick

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici explained to the press the measures proposed by the government in order that Parliament will be in a position to examine its political appointees nominated to head various state agencies or institutions as well as those appointed to ambassadorships from outside the civil service.

Naturally, the first reaction to Owen Bonnici’s declaration is that government’s proposal is a positive small first step. However, when the detailed proposal was published, it was clear that this was another gimmick. It is proposed that a Parliamentary Standing Committee will be able to examine potential political appointees through written questions. On the basis of the answers received, and supplementary (written) questions, the Parliamentary Standing Committee will be expected to advise the government on the appointments under consideration.

This is a far cry from what is expected in a modern democracy.

Parliament, either directly or through a standing committee, should not be expected to simply advise. It should decide on the suitability or otherwise of the government nominees. This should be done after the nominees have been examined in a public hearing in the same manner as that of the US Senate Committees or the Parliamentary Committees of various other countries. This can only be done if Parliament reclaims the powers it has ceded to the government over the years.

Parliamentary scrutiny means much more than answering a set of written questions. Examining the nominees to ascertain their suitability for the post they have been nominated goes much further than the superficial examination of their professional competence. It also entails the examination of their past performance in order to ascertain whether they are capable of withstanding political pressure which seeks to sway their judgement in favour of political expediency and consequently influence their behaviour.

Such an exercise cannot be done through written questions but through a viva voce examination where it is not only what is said that matters. Interpreting body language and reactions to unexpected questions or statements is generally more relevant than deciphering boring, long-winded answers that go around in circles and generally avoid providing an answer at all.

During the general election campaign a few months ago, we were told that we needed “Labour-proof institutions”. In reality, government institutions and agencies should be at arms length from the government of the day in all day to day matters. This is done by ensuring that the running of government institutions and agencies is not the prerogative of political cronies but of suitably qualified appointees.

The government proposal is one that ensures that Parliament, through it’s Standing Committees, will not be in a position to carry out any meaningful scrutiny.  Parliament needs to have the authority to block the appointments which it considers to be unsuitable and in order to be able to act in this manner, the government’s proposal needs to be heavily revisited.

It is for this reason that – in the recent general election manifesto (and even in that of the previous general election) – we Greens proposed a much more effective policy: that parliament (or its committees) should have the authority to decide, and not merely advise on, public appointments and that this should be done through a public hearing without limitations.

These are the essential building blocks of a healthy democracy.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 1st October 2017

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Green and Clean: Parliament’s role

The general election is being over-shadowed by a web of corruption spun around the Office of the Prime Minister. It has been unravelling for months since the publication of the Panama Papers.

Months of debate has highlighted the need for Parliament to reclaim the authority which, over the years, it has ceded to government. All institutions require continuous Parliamentary oversight: even the civil service needs to be properly monitored by Parliament.

The PN are proposing labour-proof institutions. In reality the institutions need to be PN-proof as well – as both major political parties have had exclusive control of institutions over the years, bending them to their will.

The current mess is the direct result of a two-party system that spread its tentacles through the institutions creating empires with the specific aim of buttressing those in power and protecting them in their time of need. It is a two-party system which, over a 50-year period, has developed a winner takes all mentality, as a result of which only those aligned to the winner are deemed to be able to contribute to the well-being and development of the country. The rest, with few exceptions, have been repeatedly excluded, and it is Malta which, ultimately has lost the utilisation of substantial talent.

This is the background to Alternattiva Demokratika’s electoral manifesto. Entitled Vote Green – Vote clean, without ignoring other important issues, it focuses on matters of governance in addition to its core environmental proposals.

We have plenty of good laws. The problem is that, many times, the pool of talent from which those who implement such laws are selected is generally limited to those carrying the party card. Successive governments have often preferred the politically loyal to the technically and ethically competent. This has been possible due to the fact that Parliament has abdicated its responsibilities and assigned them to the government.

Parliament should reclaim the authority ceded to government to appoint authorities and it should proceed to screen those nominated through a public hearing by a Parliamentary Committee on the lines practised by the Senate of the United States of America. This screening by Parliament should  be applicable first and foremost to all constitutional authorities, as well as to all authorities set up in terms of law. Likewise, the appointment of Commissioner of Police, the Head of the Armed Forces, the Governor of the Central Bank,  the Head of the Civil Service and ambassadors, as well as all civil service grades from Director up to Permanent Secretary,   should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

In addition to ensuring a more serious selection process, this would serve as a safety valve protecting the civil service itself from abusive action on the part of an incoming government as happened in 2013, when the Head of the Civil Service and practically all Permanent Secretaries were removed in the first minutes of a new Labour government.

The recruitment of people of trust on a large scale during the past 4 years has further politicised the civil service. It is a practice that has been on the increase even before March 2013. The engagement of people of trust throughout the wider public service was used as a stratagem to avoid the scrutiny of the Public Service Commission, a constitutional body established specifically to ensure a fair recruitment process. This should cease forthwith, with the engagement of people of trust being limited to the private secretariats of holders of political office.

The Standards in Public Life Act, which ironically was supported by both the PN and the PL, was approved by Parliament shortly before dissolution. It provisions were therefore not implemented. In particular, the appointment of a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life – to be tasked with investigating the behaviour of MPs – has not yet materialised and will have to be addressed by the new Parliament elected on 3 June.

Lobbying is not yet regulated. In fact, its regulation has been postponed as no agreement was reached between the PN and the PL about possible lobbying regulations.

AD considers that the next Parliament will have to address head-on whether Members of Parliament should be full-timers, thus severing all links with profession and/or employment and, as a result, substantially reducing instances of conflict of interest faced by Members of Parliament.

Parliament can, in the next few weeks, assume a central role in re-building the country’s institutions. It is the only way forward to ensure that ethical behaviour in public life is the norm, rather than the exception.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 21 May 2017

For sale : access to the decision-taking process

 

 

The Lowenbrau saga has raised another issue as to the extent that revolving door recruitment should be regulated. By revolving door recruitment I am referring to the movement from government service to private sector lobbying and vice-versa of holders of political office as well as of senior civil servants. As a result of such recruitment, an investment is being made in the access to the decision-taking process which is purchased or offered for sale.

Last Sunday, The Malta Independent on Sunday understandably raised the issue with reference to former Minister John Dalli in the article Revolving doors: John Dalli denies conflict of interest in Lowenbrau deal  (TMIS 22 January). However, the issue is much wider. It is a matter which is of concern in respect of the manner of operation of lobbying which in this country is largely unregulated. It has already happened not just in Mr Dalli’s recruitment with the Marsovin Group but also when the Corinthia Group recruited both Mr Dalli as well as current EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

It concerns both holders of political office as well as senior civil servants, including senior officers of authorities exercising executive authority.

There is much to learn from foreign jurisdictions as to the manner in which such recruitment should be regulated. A recent example which made the international headlines was the recruitment by Goldman Sachs of Josè Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission.  An ethics panel had described Mr Barroso’s behaviour as morally reprehensible even though it concluded that he was not in breach of the EU Integrity code.

Corporate Europe Observatory had then commented that the Barroso recruitment had “catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda, causing widespread jaw-dropping and reactions of disbelief, making it a symbol of excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.”  Corporate Europe Observatory had also referred to the recruitment of other former European Commissioners by various corporations and emphasised that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that as a result of this behaviour European politicians are seen to be acting for private interests over the public interest.

This is the real significance of revolving door recruitment:  it needs to be ascertained that the potential abuse by holders of political office of milking public office for private gain is regulated. It is not just another layer of regulation or unnecessary bureaucracy.

The issue is however more complex than the recruitment of holders of political office at the end of their political appointment. It is also of relevance even when such holders of political office are appointed to such office from the private sector as can be ascertained through the current hearings by the US Senate of the Trump administration nominees. It is also applicable to senior civil servants from the wider public sector.

Parliament is currently debating a Standards in Public Life Bill, which at this point in time is pending examination at Committee stage. Unfortunately, revolving door recruitment as well as lobbying have not been considered by the legislator!   Revolving door recruitment is an exercise in selling and purchasing access to the decision-taking process. It is high time that it is placed under a continuous spotlight.

published in The Malta Independent: Wednesday 25 January 2017

Revolving doors: John Dalli and beyond

 

 

The Lowenbrau saga is developing further, much beyond its original obvious intent. The new twist is whether, and to what extent, the use of revolving doors by politicians as soon as their political office draws to an end is permissible.

The use of revolving doors is a reference to the practice of some politicians to join the Board of Directors or team of advisors of business/industry in an area which they would have been responsible for regulating when in office.

The practice in the EU and some other countries is to postpone the possible entry of former Commissioners (holders of political office) in the areas they previously regulated by three years. This signifies that former Commissioners (or Ministers) are forbidden (unless they obtain prior clearance) from joining Boards of Directors and/or organisations  of lobbyists for a number of years.  A case in point was the recent Barroso appointment to the Goldman Sachs Board which whilst being considered as being morally reprehensible was not deemed to be a breach of the EU integrity code.  

As far as I am aware, the Standards in Public Life Bill currently pending before Malta’s Parliament does not address the issue. The issues to be addressed are various. Primarily, however, it is urgent to establish a cooling-off length of time during which time persons active in public life should not take up posts in the private sector in order to ensure the observance of an ethical benchmark.

John Dallis taking up the post of Chairman of Marsovin is only one example. There are various others amongst which the posts which John Dalli himself as well as Karmenu Vella (present Commissioner and former Minister for Tourism) had taken up with the Corinthia Group in the past.

In fairness the applicability of such an ethical standard should also be considered for top civil servants, who should approach the use of revolving doors with extreme caution.  

Evarist trusts you

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The probe into the corruption allegations at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools is a very serious matter. Reports in the press indicate that the invoices, issued for the construction work carried out by the Foundation at various schools, are being meticulously examined in order that information which might be of relevance to the investigation is gathered.

Of particular interest is the news item that the financing of a newly constructed block of flats at Rabat is under the spotlight. The block of flats, still in shell form, belongs to the person under investigation. It is being emphasised that the fruits of the alleged corruption may have financed the Rabat development. The said site is covered by development permit PA1215/15 as amended by subsequent application PA0260/16. The Planning Authority  permitted the demolition of the previous dwelling on the site and the construction of a five-floor residential block, inclusive of a penthouse and a semi-basement garage in its stead. According to the Planning Authority website, the applicant was Edward Caruana and work on the site commenced on the 19 July 2015.

So far, the press, in part echoing the PN spokespersons, have concentrated firepower on whether the Education Minister Evarist Bartolo acted swiftly enough to ensure that the matter beplaced under investigation.

While the obvious course of immediate action is for the police to investigate in order to identify whether the alleged corruption took place or not, in my view the problems run much deeper than that. Essentially, the issue is one of bad governance through the use of the “person of trust” –  a 21st century version adaptation of a system of political clientelism.

A “person of trust” in Maltese political jargon generally signifies that the person has a political allegiance to the politician who trusts him. Actually, however, it should have a completely different meaning: that the person so appointed is beyond reproach, rather than his being in the Minister’s good books. In fact the person under investigation (Edward Caruana) who was entrusted with procurement duties in the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools was a political canvasser of the Education Minister Evarist Bartolo. Incidentally, Mr Caruana’s brother too is a trusted person: he was appointed Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry.  We do remember the manner in which all Permanent Secretaries in office were swept aside way back in March 2013 to be replaced by a team of “persons of trust”.

The engagement of “politically” trusted persons is not a matter peculiar to Evarist Bartolo’s Ministry, or to the government of which he forms part. While it has been going on for a number of years, it has been done on a much larger scale since the 2013 General Election. In most cases, unfortunately, the political trustworthiness of an individual makes short shrift of meritocracy which should be the foundation stone of a serious public administration.

The trusted person mechanism is circumventing the recruitment procedures of the public service, thereby excluding competent and qualified persons for the simple reason that they are not of the required political colour.

Through the recruitment of persons of trust, clientelism is devaluing years of preparation to obtain qualifications. The end result is not just demotivation : corruption and arrogance are the two other most obvious symptoms.

The Ombudsman in Malta has commented various times on the negative impact which excessive direct appointments in the public sector have due to lack of transparency.  Yet he is consistently ignored.

Under the spotlight Minister Evarist Bartolo has exclaimed that he feels betrayed.

We all have the same feeling that those who preached meritocracy are using political trustworthiness in order to ensure that practising clientelism is done in an efficient a manner as possible.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 11 December 2016

Michael Falzon u l-Awditur Ġenerali

Michael Falzon 6

L-Awditur Ġenerali jagħmel l-investigazzjonijiet tiegħu dwar l-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Jiġifieri dwar is-settur pubbliku u dwar il-Gvern tal-ġurnata, prinċipalment. Imma jinvestiga ukoll dwar il-Gvern tal-bieraħ, jekk iħoss il-ħtieġa jew jekk ikun mitlub.

Nifhem li mhux bil-fors ikun hemm qbil mal-konklużjonijiet li jasal għalihom l-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali. Min jagħmel l-investigazzjoni jista’ jiżbalja ukoll. Sakemm l-iżbalji jkunu żbalji umani, wieħed jifhem, avolja xorta ħadd ma hu ser jieħu pjaċir b’dawn it-tip ta’ żbalji! Huwa għalhekk li l-kritika li għamel Michael Falzon lill-uffiċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali, għalkemm kienet tinħass esaġerata, huwa xieraq li tkun eżaminata iktar milli fil-fatt jidher li ġiet eżaminata.

L-Awditur Ġenerali f’ittra lill-Ispeaker jispjega li l-impjegat fl-uffiċċju tiegħu li fuq il-media soċjali dehru ritratti tiegħu waqt partita futbol flimkien mal-ex Ministru Jason Azzopardi ma kienx involut fl-investigazzjoni li minna ilmenta Michael Falzon. Din l-ispjega tindirizza biss parti mill-ilment imma ma titfa l-ebda dawl (ta’ l-inqas publikament) dwar kemm hu ta’ ħsara li uffiċjali investigaturi mill-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali jidhru viċin wisq tal-politiċi.

Inċidenti ta’ din ix-xorta jitfgħu dell bla bżonn fuq l-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali. Itappnu l-kontribut kbir li l-uffiċċju dejjem ta lill-pajjiż. F’ċirkustanzi bħal dawn l-Awditur Ġenerali għandu jkun ċar u iebes. Sfortunatment ma kienx.

Huwa ovvju li l-uffiċċju tal-Awditur Ġenerali dejjem ser ikun kritiku tal-Gvern. Gvern għaqli jagħti każ ta’ din il-kritika, anke fejn mhux bil-fors jaqbel magħha. Imma l-Awditur Ġenerali għandu l-obbligu li jassigura ruħu li dawk li jgawdu l-fiduċja tiegħu iġibu ruħhom sewwa. Dejjem, mhux biss waqt il-ħin tax-xogħol. Inkella għandu l-obbligu li jdabbrilhom rashom malajr.

Some memories of my father

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It is now four weeks since he passed away in the early hours of 11 June. Yet I still find myself dialling his telephone number at least twice a day to exchange some news or to ask for his opinion or advice on some matter.

Three months short of his 85th birthday, he had retired from the civil service 25 years ago after a continuous public service spanning over 40 years. I do remember most of his postings, in particular those at the Customs and the then Water Works Department. He was dedicated to his duties at the Department of Social Services where he spent more than twenty years of his public service.

He was an only child as his elder sister had died at birth. At the tender age of six he was already an orphan when he lost his father who worked as a linotype operator at the government printing press. It was in 1937, two years before the outbreak of World War II. Without a breadwinner at home and inexistent social services life was miserable.

My father was not into politics. He was of the opinion that it would have been much better had I followed in his footsteps! He told me as much in very forceful language many times, in particular on the morrow of Black Monday in October 1979 when standing in the timber balcony of our home in St Paul Street Valletta we could still observe smoke coming out from the gutted Progress Press, home to The Times and The Sunday Times for many years.

He was a civil servant of the old school who took much pride in his work. As a young boy I could observe this at close quarters whenever he took me along. As an account keeper at the Water Works Department in the 1960s he would patiently listen to and address complaints on “errors” in water and electricity bills. Later in the 1980s, he would apply his skills as a welfare officer in the different area offices of the Department of Social Services assisting the elderly and vulnerable who sought the assistance of the state.

In 1977, after taking part in a sympathy strike called by the UĦM in solidarity with bank employees he was transferred to the Bormla Area Office of the Department of Social Services. It was certainly not intended to be a pleasant experience. In fact, he used to recount how in the first weeks after his being transferred to the Bormla Social Services Area Office, various officials of the local Labour Party Club used to turn up at the office “to check” on the progress of the new welfare officer! Subsequently he was transferred to other Area Offices.

My father spent his last weeks in palliative care at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre where he was much impressed by the dedicated service of all members of staff, without exception. My family is grateful to them all as their care and dedication ensured that his last days were bearable right to the very end. May he rest in peace.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 10 July 2016

Lil Michael Falzon qabżitlu ċ-ċinga

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Wara li ħadet il-ġurament tal-ħatra, Deborah Schembri, Segretarju Parlamentari għall-Ippjanar u s-Simplifikazzjoni tal-Proċess Amministrattiv bdiet fuq nota tajba. Qalet li m’għandniex niżirgħu dubji dwar ir-rapporti tal-Awditur Ġenerali. Għandna l-obbligu li nitgħallmu minnhom. Huwa kumment f’waqtu u jpatti ftit għall-ħsara istituzzjonali bil-kummenti goffi ta’ Michael Falzon nhar l-Erbgħa hekk kif irriżenja minn Segretarju Parlamentari.

Falzon, li kien ilu jaqla’ ġo fih xhur sħaħ, żbroffa l-bieraħ meta xebbaħ partijiet mir-rapport tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar l-esproprijazzjoni ta’ 36 Triq iz-Zekka l-Qadima l-Belt Valletta ma’ diskors tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Falzon soltu jkun meqjus fi kliemu, iżda l-bieraħ qabżitlu ċ-ċinga.

Huwa tajjeb li l-istituzzjonijiet nirrispettawhom. Meta naqblu mal-konklużjonijiet tagħhom ma hemm l-ebda diffikulta biex nuru dan ir-rispett. Ir-rispett reali nuruh meta l-konklużjonijiet ikun iebsa u jesponu d-difetti fit-tħaddim tal-amminstrazzjoni pubblika.

Huwa tajjeb li nifhmu lkoll li din hi l-funzjoni tal-Awditur Ġenerali : li jgħarbel il-ħidma u l-infieq tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika biex jassigura li flusna qed jiġu użati kif inhu xieraq. Il-ħidma tal-Awditur Ġenerali dejjem ser tkun ta’ kontroversja. Ġieli ftit u ġieli ħafna. Bil-fors irid ipoġġi subgħajh fuq il-feriti u d-dnubiet tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Jekk ma jagħmilx dan ikun qiegħed hemm għalxejn.

Ikun xieraq li napprezzaw il-ħidma tiegħu għax, kif ngħidu, hi dejjem ħidma għat-telgħa. Għalhekk il-kumment ta’ Deborah Schembri l-bieraħ kif floku. Huwa tajjeb li jkun hemm min jisma’ aħjar x’għandu xi jgħid l-Awditur Ġenerali. Huwa b’hekk li jista’ jkollna amministrazzjoni pubblika li tagħti servizz aħjar, lil kulħadd.

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

Stennejt xi ħaġa aħjar minn Simon Busuttil

 

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Fid-diskors tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni Simon Busuttil bi tweġiba għall-baġit issemmew qraba ta’ politiċi u dan in konnessjoni ma ħatriet f’Bordijiet fis-settur pubbliku.

Dak li ser ngħid m’huwiex rifless la fuq l-integrità tal-politiku u l-anqas tal-qarib jew qariba.

Huwa ħażin, fl-opinjoni tiegħi, li argument validu favur tmexxija tajba (good governance) jiddawwar f’battibek li jipprova jagħti l-impressjoni ta’ nuqqas ta’ integrità, b’mod partikolari meta ma hemm xejn li jagħti l-iċken indikazzjoni ta’ dan.  Għalhekk naħseb li l-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni qiegħed il-kliem b’mod żbaljat u b’hekk il-kontribut tiegħu għal diskussjoni serja dwar din il-materja kien wieħed kompletament inkorrett. Stennejt xi ħaġa aħjar minn Simon Busuttil.

Din mhiex l-ewwel darba li qraba ta’ politiċi kienu taħt l-ispotlight. Hi issue li tista’ tinqala’ minn żmien għal żmien kważi taħt kull amministrazzjoni.  Il-mistoqsija ta’ dejjem hi dwar fejn għandha tinqata’ linja.

Il-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Ministri, per eżempju, fir-regola 23 tiegħu jinsisti li safejn hu possibli l-Ministri (u allura anke s-Segretarji Parlamentari) għandhom jevitaw li jappuntaw qraba bħala membri tas-segretarjat privat tagħhom.

Safejn naf jiena dik hi l-unika limitazzjoni bil-kitba li hemm dwar ħatriet ta’ qraba ta’ politiċi f’Malta. Ma jfissirx imma li ħatriet oħra jistgħu jsiru, iżda jfisser li jekk ikunu ikkunsidrati għal xi ħatra oħra għandu jkun hemm attenzjoni kbira. Bil-fatt li l-Kodiċi tal-Etika tal-Ministri kważi jeskludi l-ħatriet tal-qraba mis-segretarjat privat tal-Ministru (u tas-Segretarju Parlamentari) qed jingħata messaġġ ċar li l-politiku m’għandux jaħtar lill-qraba tiegħu bħala l-għajnejn u l-widnejn tiegħu fid-dikasteru li għalih huwa responsabbli. Ir-raġuni għal dan hi ċara: id-demm qatt ma jsir semm. Il-lealtà familjari, fil-ħajja pubblika, hi ostaklu għal tmexxija tajba.

Meta qraba ta’ politiċi li jkollhom is-setgħa eżekuttiva jinħatru f’Bordijiet fl-istess Ministeru tal-politiku qarib tagħhom, jinħoloq konflitt ta’ interess reali bejn il-lealtà familjari u l-lealtà lejn id-dover pubbliku. Tipprova kemm tipprova tegħleb dan il-kunflitt, dan dejjem ser jibqa’ hemm. Huwa kunflitt reali li jitfa’ dell bla bżonn fuq il-ħidma tal-persuna li tinħatar. Għalhekk biss, kapaċi kemm ikun jew kemm tkun, dawn il-ħatriet m’għandhomx isiru u dan fl-interess tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika korretta.

Qiegħed nillimita ruħi għal ħatriet li jkunu fl-istess qasam ta’ responsabbiltà tal-politiku għax ħatriet f’oqsma oħra, anke ta’ qraba ta’ politiċi, m’għandhomx ikunu imwarrba sempliċiment għax huma qraba. Pajjiżna hu żgħir wisq u ma jistax jeskludi wisq nies minn ħatriet ta’ din ix-xorta.

Il-qarib tal-politiku li jingħata ħatra fl-istess Ministeru tal-qarib tiegħu jew tagħha qatt ma jista’ jkun gwardjan effettiv tal-interess pubbliku. Id-demm qatt ma sar semm. U mhux ser jibda illum.