Former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s decision to resign from Parliament has spared him questioning by the Standards in Public Life Committee on his role in the granting of a consultancy to Konrad Mizzi in late 2019, with Speaker Anġlu Farrugia ruling that the committee’s remit does not extend to former MPs.
Mizzi had been granted a lucrative consultancy contract with the Malta Tourism Authority shortly after he stepped down as Tourism Minister in the wake of anti-government protests, though this contract was cancelled after it was made public – by then, Robert Abela had become Prime Minister, with Muscat having resigned in disgrace.
Last week, the Standards Committee had endorsed a report by Commissioner George Hyzler on Mizzi’s appointment – the findings have not been made public – but government and opposition MPs disagreed on whether Muscat could be summoned to explain his role.
In his ruling, Farrugia backed the argument made by the government MPs: that Muscat could not be summoned. This contrasts with the Committee on Standards of the British Parliament, whose practices Malta generally draws on. But Farrugia said that in this case, the Maltese law did not empower the committee to probe ex-MPs: the British equivalent had been specifically amended to make this possible.
Speaker made Parliament an ‘instrument of impunity’ – Repubblika
Farrugia’s ruling was harshly criticised by civil society NGO Repubblika, stating that it helped make Parliament an “instrument of impunity,” which was powerless against blatant abuses of power.
The NGO said that it was shocked to see that an MP does not need to answer for their actions once they step down, even as they enjoy the generous pension afforded to MPs. The Speaker’s ruling was “an insult to parliamentary democracy which erodes our right as citizens to expect correct and proper behaviour from MPs,” Repubblika maintained.
The ruling was also met with derision by Nationalist MEP David Casa, who highlighted how Muscat resigned from Parliament mere hours before he was found to be in breach.