Il-finanzjament tal-partiti : id-difett ewlieni fil-liġi

 

Bħalissa għaddej id-dibattitu dwar jekk il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għandiex tinvestiga l-allegazzjonijiet li nġiebu għall-attenzjoni tagħha dwar nuqqas ta osservanza tal-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti.

Alternattiva Demokratika sa mill-bidu nett għamlitha ċara li kien żball oħxon li tintgħażel il-Kummissjoni Elettorali biex tħares l-implimentazzjoni tal-liġi. Fdokument dwar l-abbozz ta liġi f’Lulju 2014, Alternattiva Demokratika kienet qalet hekk : 

………….. l-komposizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali bnofsha  tinħatar mill-Gvern u bin-nofs l-ieħor tinħatar mill-Oppożizzjoni (bChairman appuntat mill-Gvern) tpoġġi liżżewġ partiti politiċi parlamentari fpożizzjoni li direttament jikkontrollaw il-proċess kollu li qed jiġi propost. Kull partit politiku ieħor, inkluż Alternattiva Demokratika, hu  eskluż minn dan il-proċess.

…………………

Alternattiva Demokratika, kif diġa għamlet meta ikkummentat dwar il-White Paper tirreferi għal proposta approvata minn Kumitat Magħżul tal-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti taħt it-tmexxija tal-iSpeaker. Il-Kumitat Magħżul issa iffinalizza r-rapport tiegħu liema rapport  jinkludi abbozz ta liġi ieħor intitolat: Standards in Public Life Act 2014. Dan l-abbozz  jipprovdi dwar il-ħatra ta Kummissarju u Kumitat Permanenti Parlamentari dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.

Skond il-klawsola 3 tal-abbozz dwar l-Istandards, il-liġi proposta tapplika għall-Membri tal- Parlament (inkluż Ministri, Segretarji Parlamentari u Assistenti Parlamentari) kif ukoll għal  persuni impjegati fposizzjoni ta fiduċja inkella bħala konsulenti tal-Gvern jew ta xi korp  statutorju. L-istess klawsola 3 tippermetti li l-applikabilita tal-liġi tista titwessa permezz ta  regolamenti li jkunu ikkunsidrati u jiksbu l-appoġġ tal-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti.

L-abbozz jikkonċerna l-imġieba tal-politiċi eletti fil-Parlament u konsulenti/ħatriet ta fiduċja.

L-awtorità regolatorja hi vestita fKummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika li skond kif  tipprovdi l-klawsola 4 tal-istess abbozz jeħtieġ l-approvazzjoni ta mhux inqas minn żewġ terzi tal-Membri tal-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti biex ikun jista jinħatar.

Il-Kummissarju hekk maħtur hu propost li jkun sorveljat fil-ħidma tiegħu minn Kumitat Permanenti mmexxi mill-iSpeaker u kompost ukoll minn 4 Membri Parlamentari, tnejn min-naħa tal-Gvern u tnejn oħra min-naħa tal-Oppożizzjoni.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li dan ifisser mhux biss garanzija ta serjeta u imparzjalita bil-ħatra ta persuna li tgawdi l-fiduċja ta mhux inqas minn żewġ terzi tal-Parlament imma ukoll garanzija ta trasparenza ikbar minħabba li l-laqgħat tal-Kumitat Parlamentari jsiru fil-pubbliku. Il-ħidma li issir għaldaqstant tista ukoll tkun soġġetta biktar faċilita għall-iskrutinju tal-medja.  

Għal dawn ir-raġunijiet Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li l-awtorita regolatorja dwar il-finanzjament tal-politika għandha tkun fil-qafas tal-istruttura li l-Parlament qiegħed jibni bil-mod u bil-paċenzja dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika bl-involviment tal-Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Dan ikun ferm aħjar mill-istruttura proposta fl-abbozz ta liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi.

Nifhmu li l-idea li l-awtorita regolatorja għall-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali ttieħdet mill-esperjenza tar-Renju Unit. Irridu iżda inżommu quddiem għajnejna li l-esperjenza tar-Renju Unit mgħandha xejn xtaqsam ma dik Maltija fejn tidħol awtorita regolatorja indipendenti. Fil-leġislazzjoni tar-Renju Unit kemm il-proċess elettorali ukoll dak ta sorveljanza tal-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi hu taħt il-lenti tal-House of Commons u l-Kummissarji Elettorali għar-Renju Unit (għaxra bkollox) bkuntrast mal-prattika fMalta ma jistgħux ikunu persuni assoċjati ma partiti politiċi. Dik tagħmel differenza kbira u fundamentali.

Wara li Alternattiva Demokratika kienet ħarget bdin ir-reazzjoni, il-PN kien beda jdoqq l-istess diska.

Imma l-Gvern webbes rasu.

 

Tista tara id-dokument sħih ippubblikat bil-Malti hawn. Inkella hawn jekk tippreferi taqrah bl-Ingliż.

Alleanza Elettorali: m’hemmx għaġġla

 

Id-dibattitu pubbliku dwar jekk, meta u kif għandha tkun żviluppata alleanza elettorali bejn Alternattiva Demokratika u l-Partit Nazzjonalista qabad ritmu sewwa fuq il-media soċjali matul il-ġimgħa li għaddiet. Dan seħħ l-iktar bħala riżultat  tal-intervista ta’ Michael Briguglio fuq din il-gazzetta l-ġimgħa l-oħra.

Il-veduti ta’ Michael Briguglio, bla dubju, jirriflettu l-esperjenzi tiegħu u jwassluh għall-konklużjoni li t-toroq li jippuntaw lejn alleanza elettorali (jew kif ġieli nirreferu għaliha, koalizzjoni) għandhom ikunu eżaminati sewwa u mingħajr wisq dewmien. Jiena m’għandi l-ebda għaġġla. Dan qed ngħidu minħabba li l-imġieba tat-tmexxija tal-Partit Nazzjonalista hi ta’ tħassib mhux żgħir u li bħala riżultat ta’ dan qed nifforma l-opinjoni li wara kollox jista’ jkun li dan mhux il-mument addattat għal inizjattiva ta’ din ix-xorta.

Il-kobba mħabbla dwar id-donazzjonijiet li qed tiżviluppa bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u Silvio Debono tad-db Group tirrikjedi li jitqegħdu l-karti kollha fuq il-mejda biex ikun assigurat li l-fatti kollha huma magħrufa. Kemm hu veru li l-PN irċieva donazzjonijiet moħbija bħala ħlas għal serviżżi li ma nagħtawx u dan billi għamel użu mill-kumpanija kummerċjali tiegħu?  Apparti l-grupp db kemm-il entitá kummerċjali oħra hemm li għamlet din it-tip ta’ donazzjoni moħbija lill-PN?  Dan kollu ma jmurx kontra dak li l-PN ilu jgħid żmien dwar is-suppost tmexxija serja li jrid?  Allura jekk anke fuq xi ħaġa bażika bħas-serjetá fit-tmexxija l-PN jgħid ħaga u jagħmel oħra kif qatt nistgħu nemmnu u nagħtu piż lil dak li jgħid il-PN dwar prinċipji u kwalunkwe xorta ta’ proposta politika?

Hemm diversi materji oħra li jinvolvu l-imġieba ta’ membri parlamentari ewlenin tal-Partit Nazzjonalista li dwarhom tinħtieġ li tingħata spjegazzjoni.

Per eżempju d-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Claudio Grech li ma jiftakarx jekk qatt iltaqa’ ma George Farrugia, u dan fil-kuntest tal-iskandlu taż-żejt, xejn ma tikkonvinċi. L-aċċettazzjoni da parti tal-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni ta’ din id-dikjarazzjoni tixhed dubju fuq kemm qiegħed jiffunzjona l-kumpass etiku tant meħtieġ u essenzjali għal min appunta lilu nnifsu fit-tmexxija tal-koalizzjoni kontra l-korruzzjoni.

L-anqas ma huma ċari l-affarijiet fejn jidħol ir-rwol ta’ Beppe Fenech Adami fil-Capital One Investment Group u l-Baltimore Fiduciary Services. F’sitwazzjoni kważi identika, Joe Cordina, dakinnhar Teżorier tal-Partit Laburista, kien imġiegħel jirreżenja.

Min-naħa l-oħra Mario de Marco għamel apoloġija pubblika dwar il-ġudizzju żbaljat tiegħu meta huwa aċċetta l-inkarigu mill-Grupp db dwar l-akkwista ta’ l-art f’Pembroke fejn illum hemm l-Istitut għall-Istudji Turistiċi. F’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi, bla ebda dubju, apoloġija mhux biżżejjed.

Irridu nikkunsidraw ukoll il-villa proposta biex tinbena barra miż-żona tal-iżvilupp minn Toni Bezzina kelliemi għall-agrikultura tal-PN u  flimkien ma oħrajn awtur tad-dokument dwar il-politika “ġdida” ambjentali tal-PN. Proposta li tmur kontra dak kollu li kien propost fid-dokument. Il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni flok ma tajru immedjatament ipprova jeħilsu billi qal li “ma għamel xejn ħażin.

Meta tqies kollox, tista’ tifhem aħjar kemm it-tmexxija tajba u l-iġieba etika huma bosta drabi nieqsa fost l-Opposizzjoni. Kull wieħed minn dawn il-kazijiet, anke jekk meqjus għalih waħdu, kien ikun iktar minn biżżejjed biex tkun xkupata l-barra t-tmexxija kollha tal-Opposizzjoni.

Kif tista’ Alternattiva Demokratika taħdem favur alleanza elettorali ma’ partit politiku li t-tmexxija tiegħu hi kompromessa b’dan il-mod u għandha daqstant x’tispjega dwar l-imġieba tagħha? Kif jista’ l-Partit Nazzjonalista jippretendi t-tmexxija morali ta’ koalizzjoni kontra l-korruzzjoni qabel ma jagħti spjegazzjoni konvinċenti tal-imġieba tal-esponenti ewlenin tiegħu? Il-fatt li l-Partit Laburista għandu ħafna iktar x’jispjega mhu ta’ l-ebda konsolazzjoni u bl-ebda mod ma jiġġustifika l-imġieba tal-Opposizzjoni.

Il-mintna li jinsab fiha pajjiżna hi riżultat dirett tat-tmexxija tal-Partit Laburista tul dawn l-aħħar erba’ snin. Imma hi ukoll riżultat tas-sistema ta’ żewġ partiti politiċi li iktar ma tispiċċa malajr, iktar aħjar għal kulħadd. Is-sistema ta’ żewġ partiti li kkontrollat il-makkinarju tal-istat bla interruzzjoni mill-1966 sal-lum hi responsabbli ukoll għas-sitwazzjoni attwali. Dan minħabba li bħala konsegwenza tat-tip ta’ Parlament li ġie elett kien prattikament impossibli (b’xi eċċezzjonijiet żgħar) li dan jeżamina b’reqqa l-ħidma tal-Gvern b’mod li jkun imġiegħel jagħti kont ta’ egħmilu bis-serjetá.

Filwaqt li l-ħolqien ta’ alleanza elettorali tista’ tkun ta’ ġid għall-pajjiż, iċ-ċirkustanzi preżenti ma naħsibx li jipprovdu l-mument addattat. Il-bibien għad-diskussjoni Alternattiva Demokratika żżommhom dejjem miftuħin imma bħalissa hu l-mument li wieħed joqgħod attent biex ikun evitat li jingħataw messaġġi żbaljati.

Huwa biss meta jkunu ċċarati l-affarijiet li jkun il-mument addattat biex jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet dwar il-jekk u l-kif ta’ alleanza elettorali.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : 26 ta’ Marzu 2017

Electoral Alliance : a cautious approach

The public debate on whether, and to what extent, it is appropriate to have an electoral alliance between Alternattiva Demokratika and the Nationalist Party has been in full swing on social media during the past week, fuelled as it was by Michael Briguglio’s interview on the Maltese weekly Illum last Sunday.

Michael Briguglio presented his views, no doubt based on his experiences and perceptions, concluding that the avenues leading to an electoral alliance (at times also referred to as a coalition) should be explored without delay. The fact that the ethical behaviour of leading members the PN Opposition leaves much to be desired necessitates more caution. There is no need to rush.

The political party donation mess in which the PN and Silvio Debono of the db Group are entangled requires full disclosure in order to ascertain the precise facts. Has the PN (illegally) avoided the provisions of the political party financing legislation through the channelling of funds to its commercial arm under the guise of payment for (fake) services? Is the db Group “donation” a one-off, or is it one of a number?

Wouldn’t this give the lie to the PN’s declared commitment to good governance? If such a basic issue in the PN’s electoral platform is just paying lip service, how can one give weight to any PN declaration of adherence to principle or policy of whatever form or shape?

There are other issues related to the behaviour of senior PN MPs which need clarification.

For example, Claudio Grech’s declaration that he does not recollect ever meeting George Farrugia with reference to the oil sales scandal, is not convincing at all. The acceptance of Claudio Grech’s declaration by the Leader of the Opposition throws considerable light on the functionability of the ethical compass which is an essential tool for the self-appointed leader of an anti-corruption coalition!

Nor are matters on Beppe Fenech Adami’s role in the Capital One Investment Group/Baltimore Fiduciary Services any clearer. In quasi similar circumstances, Joe Cordina, former Labour Party Treasurer was forced to resign.

Mario DeMarco has made a public apology on his error of judgement, which error of judgement was made when accepting the brief of the db Group relative to its acquisition of the land at Pembroke, currently hosting the Institute for Tourism Studies, fro the government. Fine, but apologies are certainly not enough.

One has also to consider the proposed ODZ Villa which Toni Bezzina, PN spokesperson on agriculture and co-author of the PN policy document,  sought to develop contrary to both letter and spirit  of the policy document he had just proposed. The Leader of the Opposition instead of dismissing him on the spot absolved him as “he had done nothing wrong”.

Taken together, the above shed considerable light on the extent to which “good governance” and “ethical behaviour” is often absent in the Opposition’s ranks. In any other democratic country, each one of the above, even if considered separately, would have been more than enough to wipe out the whole Opposition leadership.

Can Alternattiva Demokratika forge an electoral alliance with a political party whose leading members are so compromised and have so much to explain as to their behaviour? Moreover, how can the PN claim moral leadership in a coalition against corruption before it gives satisfactory explanations on the behaviour of its leading exponents? The fact that the Labour Party has even much more to explain is no justification for the Opposition’s behaviour.

The mess in which the country is currently submerged, the direct result of Labour Party stewardship over the past four years, is also the direct consequence of a two-party system which needs to be smashed to smithereens. The two- party system which has controlled the machinery of the state uninterruptedly since 1966 is ultimately responsible for the current state of affairs as it has continuously returned a Parliament which, due to its composition, has, with insignificant exceptions, been unable to hold the government of the day to account.

While the setting up of an electoral alliance could eventually be beneficial to the country, in the present circumstances it is not the right time to rush. At this point in time, linking Alternattiva Demokratika to the PN through an electoral alliance may send wrong messages.

While Alternattiva Demokratika will never close the doors to possible discussions on an electoral alliance, I believe that it is certainly the season to be extremely cautious until such time as the murky waters have cleared. It is only then that the time would be ripe for the necessary decisions.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 26 March 2017

Shock therapy to the political system

 

 

Regulation of the financing of political parties is of fundamental importance in any modern democratic society. Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party in Malta – has been at the forefront in campaigning for legislation since the day when it was founded way back in 1989. When legislation was finally brought forward it was welcomed, even though it could have been much better.

The Financing of Political Parties Act deals with more than just the financing of political parties. It also establishes the formalities on the basis of which political parties must register with the Electoral Commission. It is indeed ironic that the Labour Party, the political party which piloted this legislation through Parliament, failed to register by the date established in the legislation. In so doing the Labour Party – for some reason as yet unknown – sent an unmistakable message that it wanted to delay its being subject to regulation. It had more than ample time to adjust its Party Statute to bring it in line with the law, but it procrastinated for more than twelve months.

Earlier this week, the Electoral Commission announced that it would be setting up a Board to investigate allegations of breaches of the Financing of Political Parties Act that have been brought to its attention. As far as is known there are three such alleged breaches.

The first breach is that brought forward by Alternattiva Demokratika and involves the use of public property by the Labour Party Parliamentary Group for holding one of its recent meetings. I have already written about the matter in the 26 February edition of TMIS (Joseph tweets a selfie from Girgenti). On Friday the Secretary-General of Alternattiva Demokratika Ralph Cassar was informed in writing  that AD’s request for the Electoral Commission to investigate the use of the Girgenti Palace by the Labour Party Parliamentary Group will be taken in hand by the Investigation Board established for the purpose.

We are so used to the use and abuse of public property by the major political parties that it has, over the years, been considered a fait accompli, taken for granted. It may be a “minor abuse” compared to others in the news, but we cannot tolerate even the smallest breach of the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act.

The second breach is the one highlighted by the Labour Party regarding the Silvio Debono donations to the Nationalist Party. Silvio Debono has clearly spilled the beans in retaliation to the PN criticism of the ITS land at Pembroke being transferred for peanuts.  It is an issue of fake invoices and tainted donations as described in my article in this newspaper last week. The whole case rests on the existence of possible fake invoices by which illegal donations to the Nationalist Party could have been channelled through its commercial arm. If the investigating board is presented with the fake invoices, which Silvio Debono says he paid on prodding by senior members of the PN leadership, it is difficult to fathom how the PN can avoid carrying the responsibility for the matter.

The third breach has been highlighted by the PN, obviously against the Labour Party. It refers to a number of One journalists who have been selected to occupy positions of trust in various Ministries and authorities. The PN complaint list may have some mistakes, as some names are most probably erroneously listed, but I believe that it is correct to point out this corrupt practice through which the Labour Party media are being subsidised through state salaries – i.e. through the taxes that we pay.

The fact that these three alleged breaches will be investigated under the auspices of the Investigating Board appointed by the Electoral Commission is a step forward. However, it all depends on those selected to carry out the investigation.  I look forward to some shock therapy to the political system as I consider all three complaints to be justified. It is about time that both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party are brought to their senses and made to realise that they, too, are subject to the law. But then, maybe I am hoping for too much from the Investigating Board!

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 March 2017

 

 

Il-PN jilgħab bil-liġi tal-finanzjament

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Il-PN għandu djun kbar. Jingħad li dawn ilaħħqu madwar it-€22 miljun euro. Kemm eżatt ma nafux għax s’issa m’hemmx l-obbligu tal-pubblikazzjoni tal-accounts tal-partiti politiċi. Inkun nafu s-sena d-dieħla meta tkun bdiet taħdem il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi.

Bħala riżultat ta’ titjib intern fl-amministrazzjoni tal-partit il-PN beda skema ta’ self li permezz tagħha jissillef mingħand in-nies ammont ta’ €10,000. Min jislef lill-PN jieħu 4% interessi, ferm iktar milli jagħtu l-banek, u l-PN min-naħa l-oħra jħallas ferm inqas milli jħallas f’interessi lill-bank kieku kellu jissellef minn hemm.

Skond il-liġi tal-finanzjament tal-partiti li approva l-Parlament fis-sajf li għadda ma hemm xejn irregolari f’dan kollu. Imma l-liġi (bħal dejjem) ma tipprovdix għal kull ma jista’ jinqala’.

Il-liġi ma tipprovdix biex skema bħal din ma tkunx tista’ tiġi użata kontra l-ħasil ta’ flus maħmuġin. Jiddependi biss mill-partiti infushom mingħajr kontrolli diretti mill-awtoritajiet biex ikun assigurat li dan mhux qiegħed isir.

Il-liġi l-anqas ma tipprovdi għall-ħarsien tal-flus ta’ min jislef flusu lill-partit. L-ebda awtorità pubblika m’għandha s-setgħa biex tara li l-assigurazzjonijiet li jagħti partit politiku li jissellef huma veritjieri u li allura li meta jagħlaq iż-żmien tas-self tieħu flusek lura. Trid toqgħod biss fuq l-assigurazzjonijiet li jagħtik il-partit.

Hemm imbagħad is-segretezza. Din m’hiex korretta għalkollox. Għax l-awdituri tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali jistgħu jagħmlu l-verifiki kollha li jidhrilhom meħtieġa. Ovvjament li mhux gravi daqskemm qed jgħidu imma ċertament mhux ta’ serħan il-moħħ biżżejjed kontra l-abbużi.

Il-PN b’din l-iskema ta’ self qed idur mal-liġi. Qed jobdi l-liġi fil-kelma imma mhux qed josserva l-ispirtu tagħha. Fi ftit kliem l-iskema ta’ self tal-PN tmur kontra r-regoli basiċi tal-etika politika. Hi skema maħduma minn avukati u accountants biex jgħattu x-xtur tal-politiċi.

Forsi hu l-mument li jingħalqu t-toqob permezz ta’ regolamenti ċari biex jinqata’ dan il-logħob.

 

ippubblikat ukoll fuq iNews illum l-Erbgħa 13 t’April 2016

Il-Liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti

LN 427.15

 

Lejlet il-Milied il-Ministru Owen Bonnici ippubblika l-avviż legali li bih stabilixxa l-1 ta’ Jannar 2016 bħala d-data li fiha l-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti tidħol fis-seħħ.

Din hi liġi mportanti li dwarha Alternattiva Demokratika ilha titkellem sa minn meta twaqqfet, mill-1989. Hi importanti ħafna u kienet meħtieġa bħala strument ta’ trasparenza u kontabilità. Imma kif saret hi inġusta anke fil-konfront ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għax hi imfassla biex ikunu akkomodati l-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Hemm prinċipalment tlett difetti serji fil-liġi li dwarhom ilna nitkellmu sa minn meta ġiet ippubblikata l-White Paper.

L-ewwel nett huwa żball oħxon, fil-fehma tagħna, li nħatret il-Kummissjoni Elettorali bħala l-awtorità li tirregola. Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali, kif nafu, hi maħtura nofs bin-nofs mill-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni biċ-Chairman jinħatar mill-Gvern. Mela l-partiti ser jirregolaw lilhom infushom kif wara kollox suppost ilhom jagħmlu snin kbar. Għax il-Kummissjoni Elettorali, anke bil-liġijiet il-qodma, kienet responsabbli, per eżempju, biex tirċievi d-dikjarazzjonijiet tal-kandidati dwar kemm nefqu fl-elezzjonijiet. Tafu daqsi bl-infieq bl-addoċċ li dejjem sar minn-numru ta’ kandidati. Imma l-Kummissjoni Elettorali qatt ma għamlet xejn.

It-tieni l-kontrolli li tipproponi l-liġi huma l-istess għal kulħadd. One size fits all. Ma hemmx distinzjoni bejn il-kontrolli introdotti għall-partiti li jonfqu l-miljuni u partit bħal Alternattiva Demokratika li rari ħafna qabeż l-€10,000 infieq f’sena. Il-proposti fattibbli li għamlet Alternattiva Demokratika f’dan is-sens ġew injorati.

It-tielet imbagħad, hemm bomba tal-ħin li tikkonsisti fil-propjetà tal-Gvern jew propjetà rekwisizzjonata li l-partiti għandhom f’idejhom b’kirjiet baxxi ħafna. Dawn iI-kirjiet baxxi ma huma xejn ħlief donazzjoni li qed jirċievu l-Partit Laburista u l-Partit Nazzjonalista kull sena. F’xi każi huma sostanzjali u jistgħu jkunu f’konflitt mal-liġi. Dwar dan, bla dubju nisimgħu iktar matul ix-xhur li ġejjin.

Huwa tajjeb li fl-aħħar ittieħdu passi billi l-Parlament approva liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti. Imma setgħet saret ħafna aħjar.

Lobbying: influencing decision-taking

 

what to do

Lobbying risks corruption. Establishing clear standards of acceptable behaviour in public life ought to include the regulation of lobbying, yet the Standards in Public Life Bill currently pending on the Parliament’s agenda ignores this important matter completely.

Potentially, lobbying is not a dirty matter. It is perfectly legitimate for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. It is done continuously and involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration.  It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf or else acting on behalf of third parties, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions. Obviously, lobbying should not be the process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives of corporations to take their place.

I am not aware of the reason why the Parliamentary Select Committee, led by Hon Speaker Anġlu Farrugia, failed to identify lobbying as a matter which requires regulation within the framework of the Standards in Public Life Bill. Perusal of the final report dated 24 March 2014, as well as the minutes of the Select Committee, does not reveal any indication that the matter was ever even mentioned in the Select Committee’s deliberations. In fact in my opinion, perusal of Parliament’s Motion 77, which contains the Select Committee’s terms of reference, indirectly includes lobbying as one of the matters which had to be examined.

Lobbying requires a considerable dose of transparency. It needs to be unchained from the shackles of secrecy. In other jurisdictions this is done through actively disclosing lobbying activities, thereby placing them under the spotlight of public opinion. The public has a right to know who is seeking to influence the decision-taking process and this helps ensure that lobbying is not used as a tool to secretly derail or deflect political decisions.

Other jurisdictions require that lobbying activities are documented and that the official being lobbied is always accompanied. Subsequently a list of lobbying meetings and the resulting documentation is released or made available. Such disclosure is normal in various democracies.

Lobbying can be regulated in two ways: by regulating the lobbyist activities and by regulating the potential recipient of lobbying.

The activities of the lobbyist can be regulated either through a compulsory registration of lobbyists or else through a regular disclosure of the names of those carrying out lobbying activities.

On the other hand, the potential recipient of lobbying ought to be regulated through a disclosure of all information related to lobbying, including minutes of meetings as well as any memoranda exchanged or submitted for the consideration of the decision-taker.

Full transparency is undoubtedly the best tool which – together with guidelines on the permissible receipt of gifts as well as whistle-blowing – will reduce the risk of lobbying being transformed into an instrument of corruption.

This is not all. Malta also requires rules that regulate the lobbying that is carried out through revolving-door recruitment. At times, this is the easiest way in which special interest groups recruit former Ministers, as well as the former high ranking civil servants regulating them, immediately on concluding their term of office. In this manner, they seek to tap contacts and quasi-direct access to or knowledge of information of extreme sensitivity. It also happens in reverse, when the public sector recruits lobbyists directly into the civil service without first having allowed sufficient time for cooling off so that former lobbyists thus recruited risk being Trojan horses in the public sector areas which previously regulated them.

If we are really serious about tackling corruption at its roots, it would be better if the need to regulate lobbying is urgently considered. Together with legislation on the financing of political parties just approved by Parliament (even if this is defective, as I have explained elsewhere), the regulation of lobbying would create a better tool-kit in the fight against corruption.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 26 July 2015

Meta Joseph ried €5

five euro

Il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-Partiti għaddiet minn l-aħħar stadju fil-Parlament dal-għodu meta kienet approvata unanimament. Jiġifieri l-membri parlamentari kollha preżenti ivvutaw favur: 33 min-naħa tal-Gvern u 27 min-naħa tal-Opposizzjoni.

Qabel ma vvutaw, għal xi minuti, Simon Busuttil u Joseph Muscat argumentaw. Simon Busuttil tkellem dwar id-difetti tal-liġi [l-għażla tar-regolatur, il-propjetà pubblika f’idejn il-Partit Laburista u proposta ta’ limitazzjoni ta’ infieq (sa żewġ miljun ewro) f’kampanja elettorali]. Joseph Muscast wieġeb li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali hi korp kostituzzjonali fdat fl-iktar mument delikat fil-ħajja tal-pajjiż (waqt elezzjoni ġenerali), li l-propjetà pubblika f’idejn il-Partit Laburista ma tagħtih l-ebda vantaġġ partikolari (għax kieku m’għamilx 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni) u li l-flus, ġaladarba jkunu nġabru b’mod leċitu għandu jkun hemm d-dritt li jintefqu.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista għandu riżervi kbar, ma jaqbilx, imma ivvota favur xorta biex jevita l-problemi li ħoloq għalih innifsu meta astjena dwar id-drittijiet ċivili tal-komunita gay, jew meta ivvota b’mod imħawwad [biċċa favur, biċċa kontra, u biċċa astensjoni] fuq l-introduzzjoni tad-divorzju!

La Joseph Muscat u l-anqas Simon Busuttil ma qalu xejn dwar il-kontradizzjoni fil-każ tal-finanzjament pubbliku tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat. Għax filwaqt li l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat illum ma jaqbilx mal-finanzjament pubbliku tal-partiti xorta f’kull budget baqa’ jvvota €200,000 fis-sena biex jinqasmu bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista: €100,000 kull wieħed. Għax fil-fatt l-istat Malti, minkejja dak li jgħidu, jiffinanzja lill-partiti politiċi fil-Parlament u ilu jagħmel hekk sa mill-1994.

Dwar dan ma qalulna xejn. Kien ikun interessanti kieku spjegawlna ftit, forsi nifhmu għaliex meta jkunu fil-Gvern ikunu kontra l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma meta jkunu fl-Opposizzjoni malajr jibdlu l-opinjoni u jsiru favur. Per eżempju il-Partit Nazzjonalista bħalissa jaqbel mal-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma sentejn ilu kien kontra. Il-Partit Laburista ta’ Joseph Muscat min-naħa l-oħra issa huwa kontra l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma ftit snin ilu, meta kien fl-Opposizzjoni kien talab għal €5 għal kull vot kull sena. Ovvjament il-PN fil-Gvern kien qal le.

Ħawwadni ħa nifhmek Joey!

 

Mill-Parlament għall-Qorti ?

Scales_of_justice

 

Wara ġimgħat ta’ diskussjoni kif ukoll bħala riżultat tat-text finali tal-Liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti Politiċi jidher li hemm il-possibilita ta’ żewġ kawżi. Dawn iservu biex tinfetaħ battalja legali dwar issues jaħarqu li fihom fil-Parlament ma kienx hemm qbil bejn il-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni.

L-ewwel kawża possibli hi dik indikata fil-press conference ta’ Chris Said u Claudio Grech nhar it-Tlieta li għaddew. Din tirrigwarda l-għażla tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali bħala r-regolatur biex titħaddem il-liġi. Waqt id-diskussjoni fil-kumitat parlamentari li jikkunsidra l-liġijiet l-argumenti kontra l-proposta li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali tkun ir-regolatur kien wieħed ta’ preġudizzju fil-liġi innifisha. Dan il-preġudizzju hu wieħed doppju. Hu preġudizzju favur il-partiti fil-parlament (għax teskludi l-partiti l-oħra kollha) u huwa ukoll preġudizzju favur il-Gvern tal-ġurnata.

Il-komposizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali għalhekk tagħmilha mhiex addatta biex tkun ir-regolatur, għax hu diffiċli tkun imparzjali.

Min-naħa l-oħra dwar it-tieni kawza ma jidhirlix li rajt kummenti fl-istampa. Din hi issue li tqajjmet fl-aħħar seduta tad-diskussjoni fil-kumitat parlamentari.

Meta konna qed niddiskutu d-definizzjoni ta’ “donazzjoni” qam il-punt li meta partit politiku jingħata servizz bi prezz ridott, it-tnaqqis fil-prezz għandu jitqies bħala donazzjoni. Mela jekk, per eżempju, partit politiku jikri mingħand il-privat binja li l-kera kummerċjali tagħha hi €100,000 fis-sena, imma jiftiehem biex iħallas €50,000 , id-differenza titqies bħala donazzjoni. F’dan il-kaz tkun donazzjoni illegali għax donazzjoni ma tistax taqbeż il-€25,000 fis-sena.

Allura qal Chris Said fil-kumitat parlamentari: x’inhi l-posizzjoni tal-Partit Laburista li għandu l-fuq minn tletin post (ankè l-PN għandu, imma numru inqas) propjeta’ tal-Gvern mikrijin għandu bis-soldi?

 

Owen Bonnici wieġeb li dawk il-propjetajiet f’idejn il-Partit Laburista  jiddependu minn arranġamenti li saru qabel daħlet fis-seħħ il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi u allura l-argument ta’ Chris Said ma kienx wieħed tajjeb.  L-Avukat Ġenerali ta’ xi spjegazzjonijiet legali li fil-fehma tiegħi ma ikkonvinċew lil ħadd. Iktar kien qiesu tidwir mal-lewza. Chris Said ressaq emenda biex jiċċara dan il-punt. L-emenda m’għaddietx.

Jiena esprimejt l-opinjoni li l-emenda ta’ Chris Said ma kienx hemm bżonnha għax id-definizzjoni tal-kelma donazzjoni hi ċara ħafna fil-liġi u bl-ebda mod ma teskludi propjeta tal-Gvern. Fil-fatt id-definizzjoni ta’ donazzjoni tibda b’dawn il-kelmiet:

“donazzjoni” tfisser kull benefiċċju riċevut fir-rigward tal-attivitajiet jew il-funzjonijiet ta’ partit politiku, minn jew f’isem partit politiku, minn membru ta’ partit politiku, minn kandidat jew minn xi organizzazzjoni, kemm jekk tkun korporata jew le li fiha l-partit politiku, direttament jew indirettament jeżerċita amministrazzjoni effettiva u kontoll u għandha tinkludi, sakemm ma jiġix provdut mod ieħor………….:”

 

Dawn huma tnejn mill-affarijiet li l-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi ma tikkunsidrax sewwa. Ħasra kbira. Għax l-isforz kbir li sar minn bosta seta ta’ riżultati aħjar.

Pass kbir il-quddiem

Financing of Political Parties Act

Fil-Parlament il-bieraħ fil-għaxija ġiet fi tmiemha d-diskussjoni dwar il-liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti. Dan sar fil-kumitat permanenti li jikkunsidra l-liġijiet.

F’isem Alternattiva Demokratika jiena kont mistieden nieħu sehem f’din id-diskussjoni li ilha sejra diversi ġimgħat. F’din id-diskussjoni l-abbozz ta’ liġi ġie analizzat kelma kelma. Forsi virgola, virgola ukoll.

Għalkemm hemm affarijiet fil-liġi li setgħu saru aħjar, inkluż uħud li għal Alternattiva Demokratika m’humiex aċċettabbli, fi tmiem id-diskussjoni l-abbozz ta’ liġi  xorta hu wieħed aħjar milli kif kien imfassal oriġinalment.

L-oġġezzjoni prinċipali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika hija dwar ir-regolatur. Jiġifieri dwar min ser ikollu l-awtorità li jara li l-liġi taħdem sewwa u li tkun osservata. Sa mill-bidu nett tad-diskussjoni l-Gvern ippropona li din l-awtorità regolatorja tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

L-oġġezzjoni ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika hi ibbażata fuq il-mod kif inhi magħmula l-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Din fiha 9 membri. Erba’ minnhom jaħtarhom il-Prim Ministru. Erba’ oħra jaħtarhom il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Id-disa’ membru jaħtru l-Gvern tal-ġurnata għax ikun l-impjegat tal-Gvern li jmexxi x-xogħol amministrattiv kollu tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali, mela, hi magħmula minn rappreżentanti taż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament.

Diġa hi problema kbira li ż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament għandhom f’idejhom kontroll esklussiv tal-proċess kollu elettorali. Problema li tittaffa ftit bil-fatt li l-liġijiet elettorali jidħlu f’ħafna dettall u ankè jorbtu idejn il-Kummissjoni Elettorali kważi f’kollox.

Imma fil-każ tal-finanzjament tal-partiti ser ikun hemm ħafna affarijiet li ser ikunu jeħtieġu diskrezzjoni. Ser ikun hemm bżonn interpretazzjoni u ser ikun hemm bżonn deċiżjonijiet. Kulħadd hu tad-demm u l-laħam u wisq nibża’ li dan ser ikun rifless fid-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu.

Kien ikun ħafna aħjar kieku flok il-Kummissjoni Elettorali bħala awtorità regolatorja intagħżel il-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, kariga li ser tinħoloq permezz ta’ liġi oħra li għadha pendenti fuq l-aġenda Parlamentari. Min jokkupa din il-kariga ser jintagħżel mill-Parlament u biex jintagħżel ikun jeħtieġlu l-appoġġ ta’ mhux inqas minn żewġ terzi tal-Membri tal-Parlament. B’dan l-appoġġ, min ser jokkupa din il-kariga bil-fors li jkun persuna li tispira fiduċja u għaldaqstant tkun persuna aċċettabbli ukoll biex tkun l-awtorità li tieħu ħsieb l-amministrazzjoni tal-liġi li tirregola l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi. Din kienet il-proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika, li iktar tard kisbet ukoll l-appoġġ tal-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Il-Gvern qatt ma qal li ma jaqbilx mal-proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika. Qal biss li kien jippreferi li l-awtorità regolatorja tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għax kien mgħaġġel. Kellu l-GRECO tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa (Group of States Against Corruption) jiġri warajh u għaldaqstant ma kellux ċans joqgħod jibni l-istrutturi (institution building)!

Il-liġi probabbilment li tibda taħdem ftit xhur oħra. Il-partiti ser ikunu meħtieġa li jkollhom il-kontijiet tagħhom ivverifikati (audited). Ser ikun meħtieġ ukoll li kull sena jippreżentaw rapport dwar id-donazzjonijiet li jirċievu. Iridu ukoll jippubblikaw l-ismijiet ta’ dawk il-persuni li  fuq perjodu ta’ tnax-il xahar ikunu taw donazzjoni lill-partiti politiċi bejn €7,000 u €25,000. Ħadd ma jista’ jagħti donazzjoni ta’ iktar minn €25,000 f’sena, u għaldaqstant l-ebda partit politiku ma jista’ jaċċetta donazzjoni ta’ din ix-xorta.

Il-kontrolli, rapporti, verifiki u poteri tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali li tinvestiga huma kollha intenzjonati li jkun assigurat li jkun hemm trasparenza sħiħa fil-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi u li din it-trasparenza twassal ukoll għal politka iktar nadifa.

Naslu? Issa naraw. Imma nemmen li bil-mod il-mod naslu ukoll.

Nemmen li bid-difetti b’kollox li fiha l-liġi din hi pass kbir il-quddiem.