‘It’s unconstitutional to have government employed backbench MPs’

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The practice of employing government MPs with the Government is unconstitutional, Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler pointed out, adding that MPs should only receive their parliamentary remuneration. It is only in exceptional cases that the law allows for MPs to receive other income from the government.

READ: Employing backbench MPs as consultants must stop – Standards Commissioner

The Commissioner was interviewed on Newsbook Hour aired on 103 Malta’s Heart on Saturday morning by Fr Joe Borg.

The problem of low parliamentary salaries is handled wrongly, Hyzler explained saying that by employing its own MPs, the government is in breach of the underlying principles of the Constitution. The Commissioner added that this situation also put Opposition MPs at a disadvantage.

READ: Report calls for political impartiality in press statements

Referring to a report which he prepared, Hyzler said that members of parliament should be given the choice between working full-time or part-time, in which case they would continue receiving their parliamentary remuneration. He added that while he had put forward this suggestion, it does not mean that he is in favor that all MPs would become full time parliamentarians.

In a report published in July, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life had said that the practice of giving government jobs and consultancies to backbench MPs is “fundamentally wrong”. In his report, Hyzler had concluded that the practice dilutes Parliament’s role of scrutinising the government and goes against the Code of Ethics of Public Employees and Board Members and the underlying principles of the Constitution.

During the interview, Hyzler explained that his report was not binding the government or other institutions, saying that he is aware that it might be ignored all together.

“People expect politicians to be accountable for their actions”

Hyzler said that he will be working on making sure that politicians are held accountable for their actions, saying that this was after all an expectation of the people.

He explained that he left his legal profession, in order to fulfill the duties of his post as a commissioner which include investigating complaints filed against the prime minister, ministers, members of parliament and persons of trust. A new code of ethics had come into force which means that persons of trust are now regulated.

The Commissioner explained that the reports he prepares will be made publicly available. He added that he does not agree with the practice that the reports should be made available to members of parliament prior to their publication, and would like to see it change.

The office of Commissioner for Standards in Public Life is currently drafting regulations about lobbying, use of public resources as well as the concept of revolving doors. The Commissioner is also drafting a new code on the acceptance of gifts.

Anyone who would like to file a complaint can do so by sending a letter to Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, 11 St Paul’s Street, Valletta.


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