Another attempt by PN MPs to scrutinise the €80,000-a-year Malta Tourism Authority consultancy contract awarded to disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi was stymied by government MPs at the Public Accounts Committee today.
PN MPs originally sought to debate the contract in a committee meeting last week. But government MPs insisted that the committee had no remit as no public funds were spent. The contract was revoked shortly after it was leaked to the press, and the government insisted that no money changed hands.
Back then, government whip Glenn Bedingfield sought a ruling on the matter, and Speaker Anġlu Farrugia concurred with the government’s argument, preventing the debate from taking place.
In today’s meeting, however, the committee met to discuss the accounts and estimates of the MTA for 2018 and 2019, and since the contract was awarded last December, opposition MPs saw an opportunity by which to raise the matter once more.
Perhaps predictably, the PN’s gambit led to a similar outcome, with Bedingfield asking Farrugia for a ruling on the matter. Citing the original ruling, the MP questioned whether the matter could be brought up in committee.
PN questions whether Mizzi benefited from perks
But PAC chairman Beppe Fenech Adami insisted that Mizzi’s contract fell within the topic of discussion, noting that MPs had asked questions on other contracts awarded by the MTA without any objections.
Fenech Adami also expressed doubt on the government’s claims that no public funds were spent, stating that the opposition needed to verify this. He said that apart from financial compensation, the contract also included perks such as a driver and paid mobile phone.
“The government seems determined to ensure that parliament does not examine the contract,” the MP mused.
The Speaker’s ruling will be delivered in another sitting, but in his original ruling, Farrugia did note that there was an avenue PN MPs could follow.
He had noted that three committee members – the PAC is made up of four government MPs and three belonging to the opposition – could ask the Auditor General to investigate any matter, and that the subsequent report could then be freely brought up in committee. However, the process would necessarily be a lengthy one, due to the time required to carry out the audit.