The fact that Malta’s draft new code of ethics for Members of Parliament still contains no sanctions against MPs who are found to be in breach, the Council of Europe highlights in the recently- published secretary general’s report for 2023.
The report goes into how the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body – the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) – has found that in Malta, “the draft code of ethics for members of parliament contained no provisions regarding sanctions and their effective enforcement in the event of violations”.
The current code of ethics had been published then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Lawrence Gonzi back in 1995. An update to the code had been prepared by former Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler in 2020 and that is awaiting implementation.
GRECO noted that across the countries it oversees, “The arsenal of measures to promote compliance with integrity and anti-corruption norms has been strengthened, with a broad range of criminal, administrative and civil measures and sanctions now in place”.
But it adds in specific reference to the case of the code of ethics for Maltese MPs that “properly graduated administrative sanctions to punish failures of integrity and corruption violations that do not attain the gravity of a criminal act are still missing in some countries”.
It points out how the new draft code does not contain any sanctions or punitive measures for MPs found to be in breach of ethics.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last September issued a report recommending extensive changes to the codes of ethics for ministers, parliamentary secretaries and members of parliament in Malta.
The current codes of ethics take the form of schedules to the Standards in Public Life Act. The first schedule consists of a code of ethics for MPs and the second schedule consists of a code for ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
In its report, the OECD recommends that both codes should be replaced by new codes. Among other things, the new codes should oblige ministers and MPs to be truthful and transparent, while refraining from using information obtained in the course of their public duties for personal gain.
But neither the recommendations nor the draft new code contains sanctions or any sort of punitive measure against violating MPs.
The new codes should also require ministers and MPs to make more detailed annual declarations of their assets and interests, and they should also be required to register gifts of over a certain value that are given to them or their family members.
The new code of ethics for MPs should clearly indicate what activities are not compatible with the role of an MP.
For example, the draft says that MPs should be precluded from acting as lobbyists, working in government departments, boards or commissions, or having an interest in a corporation that is a party to a contract with the government.
The new code of ethics for ministers should maintain the current prohibition on private work while also including provisions obliging former ministers to observe a cooling-off period before taking up jobs with firms they dealt with while serving as ministers.
Then-Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler had at the time written to the Prime Minister enclosing a copy of the OECD report and formally recommending that the codes of ethics for ministers and MPs be revised as proposed in the report. Nothing, to date, has been done.
Doesn’t sound like the Prime Minister not carrying out recommendations which potentially could implicate himself does it?
Perhaps at long last the EU is starting to see through the smoke that the government keeps trying to use to stop a clear view of the mess it has created by refusing to do “ the right things “?
The operative word; “enforcement”. A cultural, political, Judicial and social aberration in Malta. The fundamental tenet of any functioning society is the ability to hold to account every single member of its community. Enforcement is the necessary process of ensuring rules, boundaries, laws and social expectations are not only met, but pledges are honoured and respected for the wellbeing of the entire nation. Ask yourself the single question: Does Malta have the will or the wherewithal to enforce?