Caruana called out on propaganda, apologises and pays for advert himself

Commissioner for Standards in Public Life Joseph Azzopardi has reprimanded, albeit in the slightest of ways, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana over two social media adverts paid for by the ministry and which were described as “barefaced propaganda”.

Independent politician Arnold Cassola had investigated the standards czar, in the interim period between the resignation of former commissioner George Hyzler and Azzopardi’s appointment, for breaching ministerial advert guidelines established by Hyzler in June 2021.

In his 6 October 2022 complaint, referred to Caruana’s advert as “barefaced propaganda paid for by public money” and a “direct affront” to those guidelines.

In his ruling, Azzopardi noted he was empowered “to close a case if the violation of ethics is not of a serious nature and the person who was investigated remedies the violation in a way that the Commissioner considers adequate”.

In his decision, Azzopardi proposed a “remedy” that Caruana sends “a short written apology to acknowledge that the Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries was violated since his photo and name were used in the advertisement, and undertakes that this violation will not be repeated by him in the future”.

Although Caruana insisted the post was aimed at “providing information in the public interest and in no way showed an element of partiality, partisanship, extravagance, untrue facts, or disrespect to third parties”, the finance minister apologised and reimbursed the ministry for the advert out of his own pocket.

“I am formally apologising and undertaking that this fact will not be repeated in the future.

“In addition, as a gesture of good will and of my own free will, I am today refunding to the public treasury the minimum cost of eighty-three euros and ninety cents (€83.90) plus fifteen euros and ten cents (€15.10) in VAT costs incurred for this post from my personal funds.”

The case has now been closed but it may set a precedent for future political advertising and ministers’ self-promotion on the public bill.

Cassola had written to the standards commissioner the day after sparks flew in parliament over the advert.

Replying to a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Karol Aquilina, Caruana insisted the posts were simply promoting his work as finance minister.

Caruana defended his position, saying, “I have never done anything for self-promotion, and I will never do it,” he said.

The guidelines on ministerial advertising were published last June and stipulate that adverts and promotional material produced by the government or public entities should not include partisan content.

The guidelines also state that photographs of ministers, or even their names featuring in government adverts, would also be considered breaches of ethics.

Hyzler penned the guidelines after investigating a similar complaint and finding that former minister Carmelo Abela’s €7,000 advertising campaign contained no “information of value” and had been geared solely toward improving the minister’s public image.

The guidelines also state that government-sponsored publications and adverts should clearly state they are publicly funded.

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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

Did it cross the Commissioner’s mind that what Minister Clyde Caruana did wasn’t in the best interest of the country and of the economy. If the Finance Minister needed 1.1 billion Euro to support the bills for the energy , he should have saved that amount from other expenditure and not burden the country with an increase of 1.1 billion in national debt.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

Honourable Minister – well done for your action on this issue. This should be a way forward for politicians, and I hope that your honourable colleagues will take a leaf from this book of ethics to deserve the title of honourable.
There is a long way to go, but a first step in the right direction, if sustained, will make the electorate start respecting politicians once again.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

Adding on to my comment, I wish to emphasise that God forbid if this becomes the way forward.
We have found a Commissoner who thinks he is positive in his judgement, however his duty was to have the Minister sanctioned for his failure, while we cannot bring in an easy way out for the pertrators to forgive themselves just by saying ‘sorry’ and paying their dues.

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