Iż-żiemel ta’ Trojja

Il-mitoloġija Griega tgħallimna ħafna: tajjeb li kultant nagħtu ftit każ. Waħda minn dawn it-tagħlimiet  hi dwar ir-rigali: kuntant dawn ikunu rigali finta għax, xi drabi, warajhom jinħbew motivi li xejn ma jkunu sbieħ!  Tagħlima partikolari toħroġ fl-Ilijade, ir-rakkont ta’ Omeru dwar il-gwerra ta’ Trojja, rakkuntata ukoll fl-Anejadi, kapulavur tal-poeta Ruman Virgilju. 

Virgilju jagħtina l-parir biex noqgħodu attenti mill-Griegi meta dawn b’ħafna ħlewwa jiġu joffru r-rigali. L-osservazzjoni ta’  Virgilju hi referenza għaż-żiemel ta’ Trojja, żiemel tal-injam li s-suldati Griegi ħallew barra s-swar tal-Belt assedjata ta’ Trojja.

Kif nafu, moħbija f’dan iż-żiemel/rigal kien hemm suldati armati Griegi li matul il-lejl, meta fi tmiem l-assedju ta’ Trojja iddaħħal fil-belt b’ċelbrazzjoni, issarraf f’ħerba għax minnu ħargu s-suldati armati.  Dan hu t-tifsira taż-żiemel ta’ Trojja!

In-nomina xi xhur ilu ta’ George Hyzler minn Robert Abela, għan-nom tal-Gvern, biex Hyzler ikun membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri hu rigal minn dawn. Bħaż-żiemel ta’ Trojja dan kien rigal li l-Opposizzjoni kellha toqgħod attentat minnu: kien intenzjonat li jkollu effetti oħra li mal-ewwel daqqa t’għajn ma jidhrux.

Kważi kulħadd jaqbel li George Hyzler ħadem sewwa bħala Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Anke l-Gvern jaqbel! Tant qabel li offrielu promozzjoni: karrotta tad-deheb li kien diffiċli li jirrifjuta. Hyzler ingħata promozzjoni biex ikun jista’ jitwarrab minn fejn kien u riżultat ta’ hekk ikun hemm xewka inqas tiġri mas-saqajn. Fil-fehma tiegħi ma hemm l-ebda mod ieħor kif tista’ tinterpreta dak li ġara.  

In-nomina ta’ Hyzler bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri hi parti mill-logħba ta’ manuvri politiċi ta’ Abela. Ħafna drabi jimmanuvra b’ta’ madwaru. Permezz tan-nomina ta’ Hyzler, imma, irnexxielu jpoġġi lill-Oppożizzjoni f’posizzjoni ta’ diffikultà li Bernard Grech ma rnexxielux jinduna biha minn kmieni u allura ma rnexxielux jevita.  

L-Oppożizzjoni messa ġibdet l-attenzjoni ta’ Hyzler li kien mistenni li hu jservi t-terminu kollu li għalih inħatar bħala Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Fiċ-ċirkustanzi politiċi tal-lum Hyzler qatt ma messu aċċetta n-nomina bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri. L-iskop tan-nomina messu kien ċar anke għal min għadu jibda fil-politika! Sfortunatament donnu li kulħadd induna x’kien qed jiġri, ħlief l-Opposizzjoni.

Dan hu l-kuntest għad-dibattitu parlamentari kurrenti dwar l-emendi proposti għall-liġi dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.

Uffiċjalment l-emendi proposti kellhom l-iskop li jħollu l-problema f’każ li ż-żewġ terzi ma jintlaħqux (anti-deadlock mechanism). Meta ż-żewġ terzi meħtieġa biex jinħatar il-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika ma jintlaħqux f’żewġ votazzjonijiet konsekuttivi,  b’ġimgħa bejniethom, hu propost li minn hemm il-quddiem tkun meħtieġa  maġġoranza sempliċi biss biex tkun approvata l-ħatra.

L-emendi proposti qed ifittxu li jeliminaw oġġettiv ewlieni tal-liġi eżistenti. Dan hu li, għalkemm il-Kummissarju tal-Istandards fil-Hajja Pubblika hu approvat mill-Parlament, hu għandu jgawdi ukoll il-fiduċja tal-Opposizzjoni.  (Jeżistu liġijiet oħra li jipprovdu posizzjoni ċentrali garantita għall-Opposizzjoni: fost dawn hemm il-Presidenza tal-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar il-Kontijiet Pubbliċi kif ukoll ir-rwol ta’ Deputat Speaker.)

Li l-persuna nominata tkun persuna ta’ integrità bħalma hu Joe Azzopardi l-Prim Imħallef Emeritu, mhux biżżejjed. Il-fatt li mhux aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni hu minnu innifsu raġuni suffiċjenti u valida biex ma jkunx addattat għall-ħatra, sakemm hemm raġuni valida għal din l-opposizzjoni.  Ma hemmx ħtieġa li jkun nominat mill-Opposizzjoni, imma għandu jkun persuna aċċettabbli għaliha.

Il-Gvern qal li Bernard Grech l-ewwel qabel man-nomina u mbagħad bidel fehemtu. Anke kieku dan kien minnu, dan hu irrelevanti, għax il-persuna nominata għandha tkun aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni kollha u mhux biss għall-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Il-Grupp Parlamentari għandu kull dritt li ma jaqbilx mal-Kap tiegħu kull meta jħoss il-ħtieġa għal dan. F’partiti politiċi demokratiċi, din mhiex xi ħaġa rari li issir.

L-iskop kollu li l-ħatra tikseb l-approvazzjoni ta’ żewġ terzi hu li jinħoloq l-iktar kunsens wiesa’ possibli meta jinħatar Kummissarju għall-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Li titneħħa din il-ħtieġa għall-kunsens iwassal biex ikun imminat il-proċess kollu.

Riżultat tal-ħtieġa ta’ żewġ terzi biex tkun approvata l-ħatra, l-Opposizzjoni m’għandiex biss is-saħħa li tkun determinanti fid-deċiżjoni: għandha ukoll l-obbligu li taġixxi b’mod responsabbli. Jiġifieri għandha l-obbligu li iġgib il-quddiem raġunijiet validi biex issostni l-posizzjoni tagħha.  Anke l-Opposizzjoni hi soġġetta għall-kontabilità.

Id-dibattitu parlamentari sadanittant qed idur mal-lewża. L-Gvern irid jikkontrolla l-proċess kollu waħdu. Dan minkejja li diġa fil-prattika jikkontrolla d-deċiżjoni finali dwar kull investigazzjoni: kemm riżultat tal-maġġoranza parlamentari kif ukoll in vista tal-komposizzjoni tal-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Il-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern  donnu ddeċieda li m’għadux essenzjali li min jinħatar tkun persuna aċċettabbli għall-Opposizzjoni Parlamentari. Il-ħtieġa li jkun hemm kunsens qiegħed jitwarrab. Dan jimmina  l-integrità tal-proċess kollu li bih huma regolati l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.  L-Opposizzjoni, s’issa, għadha ma spjegatx  il-għala qed topponi n-nomina tal-ħatra tal-Prim Imħallef Emeritu Joe Azzopardi. Għandha obbligu politiku li dan tagħmlu.

Kemm il-Partit Laburista kif ukoll il-PN ħadu posizzjoni intransiġenti: jew kif ngħid jien, inkella insa kollox, qed jgħidu. Flimkien qed iżarmaw dak li ħa ħafna żmien biex inbena.

Dan hu li kapaċi tagħtina sistema Parlamentari ta’ żewġ partiti!

ippubblikat fuq Illum: 22 ta’ Jannar 2023

The Trojan gift

photo:The Procession of the Trojan horse into Troy: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo(1727-1804)

Greek mythology conveys a multitude of lessons which we could do well to ponder on. One of them refers to gifts that mask a hidden, and generally destructive, agenda. One such lesson results from the account of the Trojan war in Homer’s Iliad and its retelling in Virgil’s masterpiece Aeneid.

Virgil advises us that we should beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Virgil’s observation is with reference to the “gift” of a wooden horse left by the Greek warriors outside the walls of the besieged city of Troy! As we know the actual hidden element attached to the Greek gift was the armed soldiers hidden within the wooden horse!

The Trojan horse was pulled within the city of Troy as part of the celebrations for the lifting of the city’s siege. When the celebrations had subsided, during the night, out came the surprise from within the wooden horse, armed Greek soldiers which devastated the city. This is the proverbial Trojan horse!

The nomination by Robert Abela of George Hyzler some months ago as a member of the European Court of Auditors is precisely one such gift of the Labour leader to the Opposition.

Most would agree that George Hyzler performed well as Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Even government shares this view. As a result, it has gone out of its way to offer him a gilded carrot which he could not easily refuse. Hyzler was kicked upstairs as a result of his performance. In my opinion there is no other realistic way of interpreting the nomination.

Hyzler’s nomination to the European Court of Auditors is part of the Abela chess game of political manoeuvring. Generally, he moves about Labour pawns along the political chessboard. Through Hyzler’s nomination he has also succeeded in placing the Opposition in an awkward corner which, so far, Bernard Grech has proved to be incapable of avoiding.

The Opposition should have advised Hyzler that he ought to serve his full term as Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Given the prevailing political circumstances, Hyzler should have never accepted the nomination to the European Court of Auditors. Its Trojan purpose should have been clear enough even to the most junior of political novices. Unfortunately, everyone was aware of this except, apparently, the Opposition, which was once more outmanoeuvred by Labour.

This is the essential and basic background to the current parliamentary debate on the proposed amendments to the legislation relative to the regulation of Standards in Public Life.

Officially the proposed amendments seek to introduce an anti-deadlock mechanism. Whenever the two-thirds majority required to approve the appointment of a Standards in Public Life Commissioner is not attained in two consecutive ballots, a week apart, it is being proposed that thereafter, the required threshold would be reduced to that of a simple majority.

The proposed amendments seek to eliminate a basic objective of the existing legislation, this being that the Standards Commissioner, though approved by Parliament, must enjoy the confidence of the Parliamentary Opposition. (Our laws provide other instances where the Opposition is guaranteed a central role: the Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee and the role of Deputy Speaker come to mind.)

Having a nominee of integrity, such as former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, is not sufficient. The fact that he is not acceptable to the Opposition is in itself a sufficient (and valid) reason justifying his non-suitability to the post, provided a valid reason for such an objection exists. It is not required that the person be an Opposition nominee: he or she should however be a person whom the Opposition accepts.

The point made by government that Bernard Grech first accepted the nomination and then changed his view, even if correct, is irrelevant, as the proposed candidate needs to be acceptable to the Opposition as a whole and not just to its Leader. His Parliamentary Group is within its rights in over-ruling him whenever it considers that this is necessary. This is not a rare occurrence in democratic political parties!

The whole purpose of the two-thirds requirement is to have as wide a consensus as possible when appointing a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. Removal of the broad consensus requirement undermines the whole process.

As a result of the two-thirds requirement the Opposition does not just have a major determining say: it also has the duty to act in a responsible manner. It must as a consequence have valid reasons justifying its decision. Even the Opposition is accountable.

The parliamentary debate is currently going round in circles. Government wants to control the whole process on its own. It already enjoys the final say on deciding on each and every investigation, through its parliamentary majority as well as a direct result of the composition of the parliamentary committee on Standards in Public Life. Labour has apparently decided that it is no longer essential to ensure that the eventual appointee is acceptable to the Parliamentary Opposition. It has decided to discard the consensus requirement. This will undermine the integrity of the oversight required on the regulation of Standards in Public Life. The Opposition, has, so far, not explained why it is opposing the nomination of former Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi.

Both Labour and the PN have taken an intransigent position: my way or no way. Together they are demolishing what has been slowly developed over the years. This is what a two party system is capable of producing!

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 22 January 2023

Nomina tal-Prim Imħallef Emeritu Joseph Azzopardi

Lil Joseph Azzopardi, Prim Imħallef Emeritu, ilni nafu madwar 40 sena. Meta konna ferm iżgħar, it-tnejn li aħna, kellna l-opportunità li naħdmu flimkien. Kien żmien fejn il-polarizzazzjoni fil-pajjiż kienet akuta ħafna iktar milli hi illum. Anke dakinnhar, Joseph Azzopardi kien persuna valida, moderata u, fil-fehma tiegħi persuna li ma titmexxiex minn imneħirha.

Triqatna m’għadhomx jiltaqgħu daqstant. Is-sitwazzjoni imma, illum, ma naħsibx li hi differenti avolja ilni ftit mhux ħażin ma nitkellem miegħu. Joseph Azzopardi għadu l-istess bniedem li naf jien.

Bħalissa Joseph Azzopardi qiegħed fiċ-ċentru ta’ maltempata politika dwar il-ħatra ta’ Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Il-PN qed jopponi l-ħatra tiegħu. Naħseb li l-PN qed jagħmel ġudizzju politiku żbaljat.

Il-Gvern min-naħa l-oħra qed jinsisti fuq il-ħatra ta’ Azzopardi u ser jibdel ir-regoli biex tgħaddi tiegħu.

Il-Gvern qed jagħżel triq perikoluża. Tajjeb li niftakru li l-obbligu li jinkiseb l-appoġġ ta’ żewġ terzi qiegħed hemm bi skop: biex min jinħatar f’post daqshekk sensittiv ikollu appoġġ wiesa’. Biex ikun hemm fiduċja. Dan kollu issa ser jintrema l-baħar.

It-tnejn li huma (PN u PL) qed jagħmlu żball madornali. Il-PN għax mhux qed ikun sensittiv biżżejjed u qiegħed joġġezzjona mingħajr raġuni suffiċjenti. Il-PL min naħa l-oħra qed jarmi l-avvanzi li saru biex ikun hemm fiduċja fl-istituzzjonijiet.

Ir-riżultat finali ser ikun wieħed li jagħmel il-ħsara lill-kulħadd, imma l-iktar lill-pajjiż.

It-tnejn li huma qed jagħtu messaġġ wieħed: li l-istituzzjonijiet, għalihom huma importanti jekk jaħsbu li jistgħu jkun imxaqilbha lejhom. It-tnejn li huma qieshom tfal żgħar li jekk ma tgħaddix tagħhom jagħmlu xenata biex jimpressjonaw. 

Kien hemm kummenti fil-media li Azzopardi, jekk jinħatar, ikun pupazz. Dan hu insult intenzjonat biex ikun skreditat Azzopardi. Hu ħażin li d-dibattitu politiku jsir b’dan il-mod. Dan ser iwassal biex infarrku il-ftit li għad baqa’!

It-triq il-quddiem mhiex faċli. Għal darba’oħra min joffri s-servizz tiegħu ser jispiċċa ikkalpestat u immaqdar għalxejn. Issa meta jmut jgħidu kemm kien raġel sew u forsi jinnominawħ unanimament għal Ġieħ ir-Repubblika ukoll!

Dan il-pajjiż qed jitkisser biċċa biċċa. Qed ikissruh il-PN u PL flimkien.

Qatt ma kien ċar daqshekk li flimkien kollox hu possibli.

L-integrità fil-ħajja pubblika

L-OECD (Organizzazzjoni għall-Kooperazzjoni Ekonomika u l-Iżvilupp) għadha kif ippubblikat tlett rapporti dwar aspetti differenti tal-integrità tal-ħajja pubblika f’Malta. Dan għamlitu bħala parti mill-proġett iffinanzjat mill-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar it-tisħiħ tal-ħidma tal-uffiċċju tal-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.

L-ewwel rapport hu dwar kif il-leġislazzjoni eżistenti tista’ titjieb filwaqt li t-tieni wieħed hu dwar it-titjib organizzattiv meħtieġ fl-uffiċċju tal-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. It-tielet rapport fih rakkomandazzjonijiet dwar ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-lobbying.

It-tlett rapporti fihom total ta’ 71 rakkomandazzjoni li l-esperti u l-konsulenti tal-OECD iddiskutew mad-diversi persuni u organizzazzjonijiet li ltaqgħu magħhom f’Malta. Mingħajr ma innaqqas mill-mertu ta’ dawn it-tlett rapporti irrid nemfasizza bi kważi ċertezza li l-parti l-kbira ta’ dawn ir-rakkomandazzjonijiet kienu ilhom preżenti fid-dibattitu politiku lokali għal żmien konsiderevoli. Sfortunatament dawn ġew repetutament injorati mill-partiti fil-parlament.

F’dawn il-paġni jiena ktibt diversi drabi dwar il-ħtieġa li nirregolaw il-lobbying fil-pajjiż. Il-lobbying huwa parti essenzjali mill-proċess demokratiku. Jeħtieġ, iżda, li jkun trasparenti. Sentejn ilu, il-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika Dr George Hyzler, ippubblika dokument konsultattiv dettaljat dwar il-mod kif nistgħu nirregolaw il-lobbying fil-pajjiż. Wara sentejn, iżda,  għadu ma sar xejn: il-proposti tiegħu għadhom qed jiġu “studjati”! Hi sfortuna li s’issa l-partiti fil-parlament ma jidhrux li huma interessati.  

Il-ħolqien tal-uffiċċju ta’ Kummissarju għall-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika kien pass tajjeb ħafna, avolja kien hemm ħafna dewnien u tkaxkir tas-saqajn sakemm il-liġi għaddiet mill-Parlament.

Dan l-uffiċċju jeħtieġ li jkun allinejat kemm mal-uffiċċju tal-Ombudsman kif ukoll mal-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika. Meta tqishom flimkien dawn huma tlett funzjonijiet essenzjali biex il-governanza tajba tinfirex u tissaħħaħ fl-oqsma kollha tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika.

It-tlieta li huma qed jagħmlu xogħol utli.  Jistgħu jkunu anke aħjar kieku jkollhom inqas tfixkil kull meta jkunu jeħtieġu informazzjoni biex jeżaminaw dak li jkollhom quddiemhom.  Ir-rapporti tal-OECD jezaminaw il-liġi Maltija li biha twaqqaf l-uffiċċju ta’ Kummissarju għall-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika u jigbdu l-attenzjoni għad-diversi oqsma fejn jista’ jsir titjib biex ikun assigurat li l-indipendenza tal-Kummissarju tkun imħarsa b’mod prattiku.

Il-pubblikazzjoni tal-files Uber, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, wrew li hemm bosta gvernijiet u istituzzjonijiet oħra (inkluż l-Unjoni Ewropeja) li minkejja li għandhom biżibilju liġijiet u regolamenti dwar il-lobbying, xorta nqabdu fuq sieq waħda. Għax li jkollok il-liġijiet li jiregolaw il-lobbying mhux biżżejjed: neħtieġu ukoll ir-rieda politika biex nimplimentawhom. Bosta drabi din ir-rieda politika ma teżistix!  

Il-kontabilità, it-trasparenza u l-governanza tajba huma ferm iktar minn slogans: huma valuri fundamentali li fuqhom jinbena l-istat demokratiku modern.  L-uffiċċju tal-Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, l-Ombudsman u l-Uffiċċju Nazzjonali tal-Verifika huma parti integrali mill-infrastruttura demokratika li hi essenzjali biex dawn il-valuri jrabbu għeruq b’saħħithom fl-istituzzjonijiet u s-soċjetà tagħna.

Madwar tnax-il xahar ilu l-Ombudsman kien indika li ma kellux intenzjoni li jaċċetta li l-ħatra tiegħu tkun imġedda. Ghad ma ġiex identifikat min ser jinħatar floku avolja qed jingħadu bosta affarijiet dwar dak li għaddej bejn il-partiti parlamentari  huma u jiddiskutu dwar min jista’ jinħatar.  Sadanittant Dr George Hyzler ser ikollu jwarrab ukoll  għax inħatar mill-Gvern Malti fil-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri. F’dan il-mument delikat ser ikun hemm post ieħor vojt.

Jekk verament nemmnu li f’dan l-istat demokratiku l-istituzzjonijiet għandhom valur, huwa essenzjali li dawn il-vakanzi jimtlew illum qabel għada. F’ġieh is-serjetà fil-ħajja pubblika hemm bżonnhom bla ħafna iktar dewmien.

ippubblikat fuq : Illum 17 ta’ Lulju 2022

Standards Matter

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has just published three reports dealing with various aspects of the integrity of public life in Malta. This was done as part of the EU funded project on “Improving the Integrity and Transparency Framework in Malta”.

The first published report deals with the need to reinforce existing legislation, while the second one deals with the organisational review required at the office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public life. The third report deals with recommendations for the improvement of transparency and integrity in lobbying.

The three reports contain a total of 71 recommendations arrived at by experts and advisors at OECD after having carried out various meetings with stakeholders in Malta. Without in any way diminishing the positive contribution of all three OECD publications I can safely state that the great majority of the recommendations made in the three OECD publications have been present in the local public debate for a considerable time. Unfortunately, they have been repeatedly ignored by the parliamentary parties.

I have written on the need to regulate lobbying many times from these columns. Lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process. It needs, however, to be transparent. Two years ago, Dr George Hyzler, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life published a detailed consultation paper on lobbying entitled: Towards the Regulation of lobbying in Malta. Two years down the line nothing has been done to regulate lobbying: his proposals are still being “studied”. Unfortunately, none of the parliamentary parties is remotely interested, so far.

The creation of the office of Commissioner for Standards in Public life was the achievement of a milestone, even though it took too long a time to drive the relevant legislation through Parliament.

The office needs however to be aligned with the Office of the Ombudsman and that of the National Audit Office. Viewed together these are the three essential offices which seek to ensure good governance, in all its aspects, throughout the different levels of public administration.

All three are doing sterling work. They can however do better if they encounter less obstructions whenever they seek information to examine issues at hand. The OECD reports dissect the legislation setting up the Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life and pinpoint the several areas where improvements are essential in order to ensure that the independence of the Commissioner is protected in practical ways.

Standards matter. 

The Uber files published earlier this week indicate that many other governments and institutions (the EU included) are not up to scratch notwithstanding the at times detailed legislation regulating lobbying. The point being made is that having legislation regulating lobbying on our statute books is not enough: we need the political will to implement it. Many times, this political will is inexistent.

Accountability, transparency and good governance are not just slogans: they are fundamental values which underpin the modern democratic state. The office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, the Ombudsman and the National Audit Office are the essential democratic infrastructure to ensure that these fundamental values have strong roots in our institutions.

Around twelve months ago the Ombudsman has signified his intention that he does not desire a renewal of his term of office. His replacement has not been identified yet as a result of the  horse-trading in which the PN and PL are currently engaged in. In the meantime, Dr George Hyzler has been kicked upstairs, being nominated as the Maltese member  at the European Court of Auditors. As a result, very shortly, another vacancy in the Office of Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has been created at such a delicate point in time.

If we really believe that, in a democratic state, institutions really matter, it is imperative that these vacancies are addressed at the earliest. Standards matter.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 17 July 2022

Abusive continuity

The distribution of multiple cheques to every household by the Labour Government on the eve of the general election is more than abusing the power of incumbency. Through the said distribution, the power of incumbency is being transformed into a corrupt practice, specifically intended to unduly influence voters.

What, in normal circumstances should be a simple administrative act is being transformed into blatant political propaganda, at public expense, straight into your letterbox. A covering letter signed by Robert Abela and Clyde Caruana says it all. A Banana Republic in all but name!

Why should such handouts be distributed on the eve of elections if not to influence voters?

Even if one were to accept that such handouts are acceptable, it is certainly not in any way justifiable to plan their distribution specifically on the eve of an election. This goes against the basic principles of good governance.

The power of incumbency is the executive power of a government seeking re-election. Incumbents always have an advantage. The manner in which they handle it defines their governance credentials.

This has been a government characterised by bad governance throughout its term in office. Right from the very beginning, on 13 March 2013. I consider the full 9 years as one continuum. This was reinforced by Robert Abela himself who emphasised that his leadership of the Labour Party seeks to continue the “achievements” of his predecessor and mentor Joseph Muscat. Continuity was his declared mission.

On its first days in office, Labour started off on its Panama tracks. The secret Panama companies set up by Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and someone else, known as the (mysterious) owner of Egrant, went on to rock Labour over the years.

The Electrogas saga and its link to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia intertwined with the Panama debacle.

It is now clearly established that the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was directly linked to her investigative journalism. Her investigations led her to identify the governance credentials of various holders of political office and their links with big business. Defining their relationship as being too close for comfort would be a gross understatement.

As emphasised in the investigation report on the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, over the years, a culture of impunity has developed in these islands. This has led to misbehaviour in public office being normalised. It has also led to considerable resistance in the shouldering of political responsibility by holders of political office, whenever they were caught with their hand in the cookie jar! Rosianne Cutajar and Justyne Caruana being the latest examples, as amply proven by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler.

To add insult to injury Cutajar and Caruana were the recipients of generous termination benefits, notwithstanding that their term of political office ended in disgrace. Caruana received terminal benefits twice in the span of a short time, as she established a national record of resigning twice from Robert Abela’s Cabinet!

With this track record one should not have expected otherwise from the Muscat/Abela administration. With the abusive distribution of cheques on the eve of the general election Labour’s current term is approaching a fitting end.

The Labour Party in government has consistently acted abusively. Robert Abela has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor and mentor Joseph Muscat. Continuity has been ensured, as promised.

published in Malta Today : Sunday 20 March 2022

Il-politka bl-ixkupa

Bħala partit għażilna l-ixkupa bħala s-simbolu politiku għall-elezzjoni tas-26 ta’ Marzu. L-ixkupa hi għodda tal-indafa. Tgħinna nnaddfu. Hi l-għodda tal-kennies, il-ħaddiem umli li jnaddaf it-toroq tagħna wara li aħna nkunu ħammiġnihom

Kull politiku għandu jkun kapaċi japprezza l-indafa. Għandu jkun kapaċi jmidd għonqu għax xogħol u jkun il-kennies tal-ħajja pubblika. Il-membri tal-parlament għandhom ikunu l-kenniesa tal-politika, determinati li jnaddfu, li jħarsu l-integrità tal-ħajja pubblika u fuq kollox jassiguraw li jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet meħtieġa f’waqthom, mingħajr tkaxkir tas-saqajn.  

Il-Manifest ta’ ADPD ġie ippubblikat f’nofs il-ġimgħa iwassal messaġġ ċar li Xkupa ħadra tnaddaf.

Hemm ħafna x’jeħtieġ li jsir biex dan il-pajjiż jinġieb lura għan-normal. Partiti oħra għandhom viżjoni u attitudni differenti u jwasslu messaġġi li ġeneralment jikkuntrastaw ma tagħna. Hemm iżda oqsma fejn hemm qbil u dan hu tajjeb. Għandi nifhem li ilkoll wara kollox nixtiequ l-ġid lil dan il-pajjiż avolja dan ma jkunx dejjem ċar.

Għandna nifhmu li qegħdin naħdmu għall-istess pajjiż, anke jekk b’viżjoni differenti u li kulltant tikkuntrasta! Għandna nagħmlu ħilitna kollha biex nikkontribwixxu għal dibattitu pubbliku pożittiv. Il-kritika tagħna għal dak li jingħad hi essenzjali, imma hi kritika li trid issir dejjem b’mod responsabbli.

L-aħħar xhur tal-ħidma parlamentari kienet iddominata minn diskussjoni dwar rapporti tal-Kummissarju dwar l-iStandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika dwar l-imġieba mhux korretta ta’ uħud mill-membri parlamentari. Dawn ir-rapporti wasslu għar-riżenja ta’ żewġ membri tal-Kabinett u ta’ Segretarju Permanenti.  Kien hemm reżistenza biex isiru dawn ir-riżenji. Hi sfortuna li l-Prim  Ministru xejn ma kien deċiżiv fiż-żewġ każi: ħa passi biss wara pressjoni sostanzjali mis-soċjetà ċivili.

Hu fatt magħruf li d-dinja tan-negozju u l-poter politku huma viċin wisq ta’ xulxin. Dan hu ta’ ostaklu għall-kontabilità, għat-trasparenza u ġhall-osservanza tal-etika fil-ħajja pubblika. Aħna f’ADPD ilna s-snin ngħiduh dan. Anke is-soċjetà ċivili ilha ssemma leħinha dwar dan. Issa anke l-Kummissjoni ta’ inkjesta li investigat iċ-ċirkustanzi li wasslu għall-assassinju ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia ikkonfermat din il-konnessjoni mhux mixtieqa bejn il-politika u d-dinja tan-negozju. Qegħdin viċin wisq!   

Għandna ħtieġa ta’ Parlament li jkollu sensittività etika.  Għandna bżonn iktar membri parlamentari ta’ integrità, kapaċi jgħarblu b’mod konsistenti l-ħidma tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika. Neħtieġu istituzzjonijiet b’karattru u b’sinsla. Għandna bżonn ta’ Parlament li jinkludi kandidati ta’ ADPD eletti mid-distretti differenti. Kandidati li mhux qegħdin fil-ġirja għal xi interess personali, tagħhom jew ta’ oħrajn, imma biss għas-servizz tal-komunità kollha.

NagħmeI emfasi fuq il-verb “jinkludi” u dan billi l-kandidati ta’ ADPD mhumiex l-uniċi li jistgħu jagħtu kontribut pożittiv għall-iżvilupp tal-politka f’pajjiżna.  Nitkellem b’rispett dwar il-kandidati l-oħra ippreżentati mill-partiti politiċi l-oħrajn. Il-parti l-kbira minnhom huma nisa u irġiel iddedikati li qed jagħtu servizz ġenwin lill-komunità tagħna huma ukoll.

Il-manifest elettorali ta’ ADPD jittratta numru mhux żgħir ta’ proposti li għandhom impatt dirett fuq il-ħajja taċ-ċittadini tagħna. Mhux manifest ta’ Father Christmas iqassam ir-rigali imma hu presentazzjoni ta’ viżjoni li irridu nimxu fuqha.

L-agenda tagħna hi li nkunu ta’ servizz għall-komunità kollha.

L-indafa fil-politika hi essenzjali. Mingħajr indafa ma nistgħux naħdmu sewwa. Aħna irridu li nkunu l-għodda għat-tiġdid tal-politika fil-pajjiż. L-ixkupa ħadra li tnaddaf. B’politika li tagħti servizz illum  waqt li tkun attenta dwar l-impatti fuq għada. B’hekk nistgħu nassiguraw li l-ħidma tal-lum ma xxekkilx lill-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri mid-dritt tagħhom li jieħdu id-deċiżjonijiet li jkunu meħtieġa minnhom.

F’dan il-mument kritiku il-politika bl-ixkupa hi l-unika triq vijabbli l-quddiem. Il-politika Maltija għandha bżonn tindifa nobis!

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 6 ta’ Marzu 2022

The politics of the broom

ADPD – The Green Party has selected the broom as its political symbol for the 26 March elections. The broom is a tool which assists us in achieving cleanliness. It is the street sweeper’s tool, the humble worker that cleans our streets after we mess them up.

Achieving cleanliness is an objective which should be shared by all parliamentarians.  Parliament and its members should be the political sweepers, keeping politics clean, safeguarding its integrity and above all ensuring that decisions are taken whenever required without unnecessary delay.

The Green political manifesto has been published in mid-week. Its main message is that Green sweeps clean (Xkupa ħadra tnaddaf).

There is so much to do to get this country back to normal. Other parties generally have a different vision and attitude and convey contrasting messages. There are however also areas of overlap between the different political parties. It is to be assumed that all seek the common good, even though at times this is not that clear!

We recognise that we are in this journey all together. We will do all in our power to contribute to a positive debate. We are critical of the political platforms of other parties but we do this in a responsible manner.

The last months of parliamentary debate have been dominated by the consideration of the reports of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life on the unethical behaviour of members of Cabinet. These reports have led to the resignation of two members of Cabinet and a Permanent Secretary. They were reluctant resignations. The Prime Minister unfortunately did not act decisively in both cases: he acted only as a result of the substantial public pressure of civil society.

It is a well-known fact that accountability, transparency and ethics in public life are severely hindered by the close connections between political power and business concerns. It is not only ADPD that has been saying this for a long time. The ever-increasing voice of civil society has led to these issues being given the attention they deserve. The Inquiry Commission investigating the circumstances into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia also confirmed this unsavoury link between politics and business: they are too close for comfort.  

We need a Parliament that is ethically sensitive. We need more Members of Parliament of integrity, able to oversee continuously and consistently the public administration. We need institutions with character and a solid spine. We need a Parliament that includes ADPD representatives elected from amongst the candidates being presented to the electorate in each district – candidates that are not in it for their personal gain or in the interests of others but for the service of all citizens.

I emphasise the verb “includes” as ADPD candidates are not the only ones who can contribute positively to the development of our politics. I speak with utmost respect of the candidates presented by other parties. Most of them are dedicated men and women willing to be of genuine service to the community.

ADPD’s electoral manifesto presents a wide range of proposals that impact directly on citizens’ rights. It is not a manifesto of Father Christmas promises but a vision laying out a road map to be followed.

Our agenda is to be of service to the whole community. Clean politics in public life is essential. We want to be a political tool for renewal. A green broom to sweep clean. Politics that serves today while keeping an eye on the impact on tomorrow, ensuring that actions taken today do not deny future generations their right to eventually take their own decisions.

At this critical point the politics of the broom is the way forward. It is about time that we sweep Maltese politics clean.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 6 March 2022

The golden handshakes must be transparent

It has been reported, in various sections of the press, that Justyne Caruana, former Minister of Education, has received, or will be shortly receiving payment in the region of €30,000 as a result of her ceasing to hold political office. This has occurred after she was forced to resign subsequent to the publication of a damning report from the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life which report concluded that the Ministry of Education, under her political direction, had screwed the exchequer to benefit her “close friend”.

Since 2008 holders of political office who cease to occupy such office have received golden handshakes, substantial sums which some describe as severance pay. The sums disbursed to date are substantial and, over the years, are said to be close to a total of €1,500,000. Holders of political office in receipt of such payments are not just members of Cabinet, as payments have also been made to former Leaders of the Opposition throughout these years.

The applicable criteria are largely unknown. There is no transparency whatsoever in the process.

There is a serious issue of governance.  The Executive is bound to be accountable through ensuring that both the criteria applied as well as the monies disbursed are well known. It is an expenditure from the public purse, so there should be no secrets about it. It is in the public interest to know how the public purse is being managed at all times.

First: the objectives of the payments should be crystal clear. When holders of political office take up their post, generally, they take leave from their current employment or close their private offices if they are professionals. Their job prior to assuming political office may be lost by the time they relinquish office. On the other hand, losing contact with their professional environment will generally place them in a difficult position to reintegrate when their term of political responsibilities draws to an end. 

Hence the objective of these so-called golden handshakes is to compensate for the fact that the holder of political office cannot go back to his/her former job or professional environment. He or she will generally have to start from scratch or almost. Not all cases are identical and hence the criteria drawn up should allow for some leeway. Do they? We do not know as to date these criteria are considered as some state secret!

The objective of the payments made is to ease the transition of the holder of political office back to a normal life.

The second point is to establish who should apply these criteria. From what is known through reports in the media the matter is regulated by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), either directly or through the Cabinet office. This is not on.

Ideally the criteria should be applied by an authoritative person or body separate and distinct from the OPM. The OPM has a finger in the pie, generally, in all the circumstances leading to the appointment to political office or to the dismissal therefrom. It should therefore not be in a position of sugaring resignations with promises of generous hand-outs.

The third point is then to establish the quantum payable.

From what is known, locally, this is established at a month’s salary for every year’s service, subject to a minimum payment of a six-month salary. It is not known whether eligibility is pegged to a minimum period in office.  These payment rates are substantial when compared to those in other jurisdictions. In addition to having smaller payments other jurisdictions subject such benefits to a minimum period in office, generally of not less than one year.

There are also a number of other serious considerations which need to be made. Should loss of political office as a result of an unfavourable election result have the same impact as being dismissed from office or being forced to resign as a result of unethical or unacceptable behaviour?

Specifically, should ending your political appointment in disgrace be rewarded? It should definitely not be so.

These are some of the issues which transparency brings to the fore. We need to discuss them seriously and only then can they be applied ethically and fairly.

It is for these reasons that earlier this week I have requested the Auditor General to investigate the golden handshakes being paid out by the Office of the Prime Minister to former members of the Cabinet. The payments made and the criteria applied should be examined meticulously.

Good governance should be our basic guide.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 9 January 2022

Meta Justyne tipprova ddaħħaq

Mela Justyne daħlet il-Qorti u qegħda tattakka l-validità kostituzzjonali tal-liġi li biha qed jiġu regolati l-istandards fil-ħajja pubblika.

Din hi l-liġi li bis-saħħa tagħha ġiet investigate Justyne, u oħrajn, liema liġi s’issa wasslet għal żewġ riżenji ta’membri tal-Kabinett: Justyne u Rosianne.

Justyne qed tgħid li l-liġi toħloq proċeduri li bihom qed jinkisru d-drittijiet tagħha.

Li ma tgħidx Justyne li hi bħala membru parlamentari ivvutat favur din il-liġi. Safejn naf jien ma lissnitx kelma waħda kontra l-liġi jew xi parti tagħha.

Għidilna ftit Justyne: meta tivvota fil-Parlament, taf xi tkun qed tagħmel? Jew qed tipprova iddaħħaq?