Updated to include statement by the Opposition
Prime Minister Robert Abela has so far failed to submit to parliament the declarations of assets of his ministers and parliamentary secretaries despite his annual obligation according to the Ministerial Code of Ethics.
The latest and only declarations of assets made public by Abela date back to 2020 – his first year as prime minister – with the 2021 declarations still missing.
A spokesman for parliament confirmed to The Shift that the 2021 declarations have not yet been made available by the prime minister.
Although there is no legal date by which the declarations of assets are to be made available to parliament, these are usually published before the summer recess.
The latest available declarations, those referring to the 2020 financial year, were tabled in June 2021.
The Ministerial Code of Ethics says cabinet members should present their declarations to the cabinet secretary by the end of March of each year or within two months of their appointment.
This has not happened this year, and there is no explanation.
The current cabinet was sworn in following the March elections, and the declarations have been held at the prime minister’s office since June if rules mean anything.
Even if cabinet members obliged, the prime minister is undoubtedly not enforcing it.
Parliament convened until mid-July before rising for an almost three-month summer break. Yet the prime minister has still not found the time to make his cabinet’s declarations public, perhaps because he was on his yacht for most of the summer.
Asked to state when the prime minister will table the 2021 declarations in parliament, OPM spokesman and former Labour TV journalist Edward Montebello once again ignored questions.
In the 2020 declarations, the prime minister was the only member who failed to declare his income in 2020, stating only that his earnings were according to his tax return.
At the same time, the 44-year-old lawyer declared he owns three properties, two in Malta and one in Gozo, and that he does not have any home loans as all the properties he bought were fully paid.
The latest property he acquired, just before he became prime minister, became a scandal due to suspicion of the low price he paid for extensive land in an ODZ area that he also rented to Russian passport buyers.
Situated in an ODZ area on the outskirts of Zejtun, the 2,600 square metre farmhouse was acquired through a deal with an elderly couple for the paltry sum of just €600,000.
The farmhouse was acquired by the Abelas only weeks after the Planning Authority gave the green light to sanction many illegalities on the property.
At the time, Abela was the Planning Authority’s legal advisor and paid €15,000 a month.
The property acquired by the prime minister had a market value of over €2 million, but no red flags were raised at the office of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.
The Commissioner did not send his own architects to make an independent valuation of the property’s market price to assess tax and stamp duty owed to the government.
Opposition calls for publication
The Nationalist Party has called on the prime minister to publish the asset declarations for the year 2021.
“It is unacceptable that, when 2022 has almost passed, the prime minister has until now not presented his own declaration of assets, nor the ones of ministers and parliamentary secretaries in parliament, as he is obliged to do.”
Abela “is doing the same as Joseph Muscat, promoting a culture of secrecy and impunity by keeping information that is meant to keep ministers and parliamentary secretaries under public scrutiny and accountable for their actions, secret”.