‘The State’s money should not be used for political purposes’ – Standards Commissioner

Former standards commissioner George Hyzler defends report on Cabinet’s ethical breach


Former standards commissioner George Hyzler on Thursday defended the conclusions of his report showing that 18 members of the Cabinet had breached ethical guidelines when publishing a 28-page supplement in a Labour Party newspaper using public money.

The Standards Commissioner investigated the case following a complaint filed by NGO Repubblika based on findings by The Shift published in February, which revealed that a newspaper supplement published by the Labour Party’s newspaper Kulħadd to commemorate Robert Abela’s first two years as Labour leader had cost taxpayers some €20,000.

Presenting his conclusions before the Standards in Public Life Committee, set up in 2017 to investigate ethical breaches committed by members of parliament, Hyzler argued that “the State’s money should not be used for political purposes”.

Hyzler’s conclusion that the adverts published on behalf of the 18 Cabinet members in question were in breach of ethical guidelines was based on rules drawn up following a similar case involving a former minister within the office of the prime minister, Carmelo Abela.

Following Carmelo Abela’s advert, which the Commissioner had found to be bereft of “information of value” and was largely intended as promotion for the minister, the Commissioner had drawn up guidelines to be followed by MPs in relation to advertising since the committee had concluded that no form of redress could be issued with no guidelines to refer to.

In this more recent case involving 18 Cabinet members from the last legislature, Opposition MP Ryan Callus argued that “this time round, there are no excuses” to justify the ethical breach.

Former standards commissioner George Hyzler during Thursday’s sitting.

While Opposition MPs were quick to state that all Cabinet members involved should personally refund the money used to finance the adverts, government MPs Jonathan Attard (also justice minister) and Andy Ellul (parliamentary secretary for social dialogue) attempted to undermine Hyzler’s conclusions by insisting that the guidelines were not clear and that the 28-page supplement was “an information campaign”.

Hyzler was quick to answer, saying the guidelines on which he based his conclusion were drafted in full, open consultation with every single MP in the House during the last legislature.

“If you have an issue with the guidelines, reject them,” Hyzler said repeatedly, adding that the guidelines were a part of “an exercise in bringing about cultural change in terms of public expenditure”.

In his report, Hyzler cited four specific points in the ethical guidelines that were breached with the adverts published on Kullħadd, with the general gist being that ministers should ensure a clear line of separation between their role as ministers and their role as politicians.

The ethical guidelines for government advertising state that government advertisements and promotional material should not include content of a partisan nature, refer to a political party, include images or slogans used by a Party or references to individual politicians, and the fair distribution of public funding for advertisements on various forms of media.

The committee will now be moving on to assessing the merits of the report and deciding whether to formally approve it.

Should the committee approve the report, it will also be tasked with determining what decision should be taken to rectify the ethical breaches highlighted in the report.


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Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

Approving the report, with Speaker casting his vote? You must be joking. Not when you have a Speaker who does not even know what his indepenent role is. He thinks they are discussing the ‘standard’ depicting their party donor, Joseph Portelli.
The only safeguard for him, would be to send a letter to each defaulting colleague, informing them that they were found lacking in standards, however the amount involved is peanuts, and after all, standards are subjective.
So carry on with your honourable objectives, but always keep your saluting middle finger, in alert position.

Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

A slap on the wrist at most!!!!

1 month ago

And the Labour Members of the PAC simply could not understand the reason. They cannot understand that the Party is not the Government. They are totally ” Taghna Lkoll” brainwashed. MORONS,

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