Watch: ‘Giving MPs government jobs does not mean buying their silence’ – Abela

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Giving a Member of Parliament a government job does not mean that one has bought their silence, Prime Minister Robert Abela told Newsbook.com.mt when he was asked to give his opinion about the matter.

Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler had described the practice of giving government jobs or consultancy contracts to MPs as “fundamentally wrong” as he called for the practice to end and instead paying them an adequate salary. Dr Hyzler in one of his reports, had noted that the practice had diluted parliament’s role to scrutinize the government and was against the Code of Ethics of Public Employees and Board Members and the underlying principles of the Constitution.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Robert Abela said that he never agreed to the position taken by Dr Hyzler. Recalling his time as a backbencher when he also served as a legal consultant to the Prime Minister, Abela said that his role did not influence the stands he took on different issues. “I’ve never allowed any role I had within the government to affect my opinion,” Abela said.

Replying to Newsbook.com.mt, Abela said that he could always speak freely and no one had ever silenced him or blackmailed him by reminding him of his government job when he was a backbencher. “I could always express myself freely. Sometimes I even took a strong position,” he replied. He added that this practice will not change and MPs will continue enjoying their freedom to express any opinions they might have on different matters.

‘Not aware’

Prime Minister Robert Abela was also asked whether there were any former ministers or parliamentary secretaries who were awarded government contracts after he did not re-appoint them in his Cabinet. Abela asked the media to be more specific on who they were referring to, adding that he was not aware of such contracts.

Asked specifically about disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and former Economy Minister Chris Cardona, Abela said that he was not aware. He added that one was free to question the Office of the Prime Minister to carry out the necessary verification.

In his first few weeks, Abela came under fire after it was revealed that disgraced former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi was awarded a lucrative consultancy contract within two weeks he resigned as Minister in the wake of Electrogas director and 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech’s arrest over the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Amid widespread anger the contract was rescinded. The day of the revelation came on the day when the government proposed Mizzi as head of the Maltese delegation to the OSCE.