Speaker to move for periodic debate on Ombudsman’s reports

Mr Speaker confirmed to Newsbook.com.mt that he is minded to place before the House Business Committee a proposal for a periodic debate on the Ombudsman’s reports. Following the recent, much publicised complaints by the Ombudsman that his reports were being left unheeded, Newsbook.com.mt requested a reaction from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Ombudsman’s direct superior.

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Dr Anglu Farrugia was very direct. He explained that the Parliamentary Agenda belongs to all MPs, even if, traditionally, government has more say than the Opposition benches in what is discussed. He said that the reports compiled by the Ombudsman were tabled in parliament. “They were not taken up, neither by members of government not by members of the opposition, not for discussion, not for PQs, nothing” said Mr Speaker, who was therefore not surprised at the miffed reaction of the Ombudsman. Dr Farrugia said that, however, sometimes things need to be prodded in a particular direction. To this end, he said, he is minded to discuss with the House Business Committee, which he chairs, the possibility of a periodic discussion on the reports of the Ombudsman. Dr Farrugia said that he regularly placed all forms of correspondence given to him by the Office of the Ombudsman, at the disposal of parliament but this is not being picked up.

Bureaucratic quagmire

Dr Farrugia said that the contorted labyrinths of bureaucracy are often far from being a help to the actualisation of the Ombudsman’s reports. He explained that some recommendations, while valid, by pass the courts. This, he said poses legal issues and possibly dangerous precedent. In other cases, and in this aspect, Dr Farrugia cited medical issues, the Ombudsman’s recommendations may involve the procurement of a whole new regimen of medication with its concomitant implications on finance and treatment.

An agreed agenda

The Speaker was emphatic that the contents of the Ombudsman’s report needed discussion since this could yield positive results and better understanding of the operations of government. He said that while opposition had been allocated an amount of hours for its own choice of debate, there was nothing in the standing orders which prohibited the agenda to be one made in agreement between government and opposition. Such a convergence, said Dr Farrugia, would yield only positive results.