PN MPs bemused as government unable to confirm full ministerial portfolios

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

It’s been nearly three weeks since Robert Abela announced his cabinet, but government is not yet able to confirm which minister is responsible for which public authorities, if question time in today’s parliament was any indication.

Today’s sitting opened with a parliamentary question from Nationalist MP Chris Said, who asked the Prime Minister a question about managerial staff at the Malta Communications Authority. The answer, given by Minister Carmelo Abela in light of the Prime Minister’s absence, was that the question should be made to the minister responsible, one of the two most common answers given to parliamentary questions: the other being that the question will be answered in a future sitting.

But Said then asked the minister to state which of his colleagues was responsible for the MCA, and also asked whether the list of responsibilities each member of cabinet had been made public. As it turns out, this is yet to be confirmed: Abela said that an internal list was awaiting verification, but was unable to answer Said.

The Gozitan MP expressed his bewilderment at the fact that ministers’ responsibilities were yet to be confirmed after three weeks. Abela said that it was not yet three weeks, as Cabinet was only sworn in on 15 January – 2 days shy of 3 weeks – before emphasising that all necessary internal checks were being made before the list of responsibilities was confirmed and made public.

Said continued pressing on the issue, prompting Speaker Anġlu Farrugia to hand him an internal list that was in possession, but this list still did not include the entities each minister was responsible for.

Minister Abela pledged to look into the matter as soon as he entered his office tomorrow, stating that the government was awaiting feedback – primarily from permanent secretaries – before going public with the list of entities each minister was responsible for.

At one point, Said raised a point of order, stating that it was unacceptable to have MPs be told to ask their question to the minister responsible when the minister responsible could not even be confirmed. Abela said that while he could not confirm as of yet, this did not mean that the government did not know who was set to be responsible for the MCA.

Abela also insisted that he had faced similar experiences when he had been in opposition, before PN deputy leader David Agius asked whether the government could, at least, ensure that PQs are referred to the minister responsible when this was possible, instead of constraining MPs to ask the same question to multiple ministers each time. Abela reiterated that he would be working on the matter first thing tomorrow, before debate moved on to other parliamentary questions.