The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) today published its final report on its assessment of the effectiveness of the framework in place in Malta to prevent corruption, in which it called for more robust action against corruption in the Maltese government and police.
“This report is a call for action: I look forward to the swift implementation of GRECO recommendations by the Maltese authorities” said GRECO’s President Marin Mrčela in a statement.
GRECO notes that Malta has, on paper, an impressive arsenal of public institutions involved in checks and balances but their effectiveness is being questioned in recent years due to a wave of controversies concerning the integrity of senior government officials in relation to the use of State resources and privatisations, tenders, energy supply, the sale of land, the award of contracts and public positions.
“GRECO highlights that, to date, there has been no visible disciplinary or criminal justice response to a number of these allegations, even when some of them have been confirmed by subsequent audits, for instance, of the National Audit Office. The most sophisticated mechanisms and the many specialist and collegial supervisory bodies are of little use if they are themselves unaccountable and/or ineffective,” the statement continues.
Furthermore, GRECO underlines that the country lacks an overall strategy, a coherent risk-based approach, when it comes to integrity standards for government officials and a system of sanctions. GRECO calls for stricter rules and their enforcement on the activities of top officials, conflicts of interest and declarations of assets.
“The criminal justice response can too easily be paralysed where political influences come into play… senior officials benefit from total impunity for their actions”
— David Casa (@DavidCasaMEP) April 3, 2019
The report also states that important reforms are needed to increase the capacity of the criminal justice system to respond to allegations involving senior officials. Certain institutions, such as the Permanent Commission against Corruption, have not produced concrete results after 30 years of existence.
GRECO’s report lists a number of improvements needed, including more robust and updated ethical standards, a clear merit-based approach for career decisions and promotions, the introduction of a communication policy (to develop a culture of accountability, among other objectives) and a stronger training system. The report also addresses ‘persons of trust’, saying these must be kept to an absolute minimum.
The Independent Police Complaints Board needs to be strengthened and a policy on reporting and disclosures of misbehaviour by the police must be developed, which would include protective measures for whistleblowers.
The implementation of the 23 recommendations addressed to Malta will be assessed by GRECO in the beginning of 2021.
You can download the report here.