GRECO (the Group of States against Corruption), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body, has just published a Fifth Evaluation Round Compliance Report on Malta. Before I say anymore let me just say that it is not looking good.
The Compliance Report investigates Malta’s implementation of the recommendations issued in the Fifth Round Evaluation Report back in March 2019.
Basically, in 2019, GRECO wrote up a report on how well Malta was dealing with corruption and also looked into integrity in central government and law enforcement agencies. That report included 23 recommendations for Malta to better its rather abysmal record on the matter.
GRECO reports were often bandied around by ministers and prime ministers when trying to dispel the accusations of government inertia on the backsliding of rule of law.
In the run up to the last elections, we often heard how wide-ranging legislative reforms would address and solve Malta’s governance problems. In fact, if you were to listen to Robert Abela or former justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis you would believe that these issues are history and that we now have an impeccable system of laws that are corruption-proof, to say the least.
Well. The report published on Tuesday concluded that “Malta has implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner two of the 23 recommendations contained in the Fifth Round Evaluation Report.”
Two out of 23. That’s worse than our Eurovision performance before adjustment for tricked votes.
There’s quite a bit of attention devoted to measures concerning “persons of trust” and to the powers given to the Commissioner for Standards of Public Life. In the words of the report, “most of these measures and initiatives are still to be implemented in practice and several significant shortcomings are yet to be addressed.”
A government committed to anti-corruption? Their lips move and they say one thing… the report tells an altogether different story: “The development of an overarching anti-corruption strategy, built on a risk assessment in respect of the government and its top executive officials has not yet been initiated.”
Even the legislative process gets shot down, unsurprisingly. Labour has gotten us used to ushering in packages of legal amendments, taking advantage of its parliamentary majority. The Greco report criticises the lack of transparency and consultation of the legislative process. Particularly it stresses a need for “meaningful public consultations.” I guess the ‘meaningful’ bit speaks volumes.
There’s more. “(…) regulation of lobbying and the disclosure of contacts between top executives and third parties is yet to be accomplished and plans to establish an Integrity Unit to support public office-holders in solving ethical dilemmas have not materialised.”
Still believing the mantra of an anti-corruption government? Past corruption? Again, from the report: “Important challenges remain in the investigations of some of the high profile corruption cases. The lack of special investigation techniques for revealing corruption offences also remains a serious drawback.”
Do you still recall the European Public Prosecutor’s visit to Malta last month? How she told the press that it is impossible to understand who is responsible for what in Malta’s complex fraudulent crime-fighting structures? Well, others have been here to remind us how our government is literally dragging its feet over the necessary changes.
This kind of report would be damning in isolation. Bear in mind though that this is greylisted Malta we are talking about. This is the nation whose government representatives in parliament continue to filibuster developments in the Public Accounts Committee that should be scrutinising corrupt deals.
Former Labour minister for justice Edward Zammit Lewis, who barely scraped into parliament this time round, put his name under an article written for a local newspaper that trumpeted his achievements in anti-SLAPP legislation. The article that flirts with plagiarism of several documents and commentaries is typical of Labour politicians. On the one hand, they claim full implementation and compliance with necessary legal developments (or better being early adopters), while on the other hand, their actions prove to have quite the contrary effect.
Zammit Lewis’ proposed anti-SLAPP laws originally included none of the key features of anti-SLAPP legislation. In true Labour style, he wants to take credit for doing exactly the opposite of what was needed. The change was only the result of EU pressure to tackle the problem so journalists are protected from abusive lawsuits intended to silence them.
Compliance and Labour. Whatever you do, do not trust their words.