In what can be considered a victory for the entire independent media, the Central Bank of Malta (CBM) has been ordered to reduce an unjustified charge it requested to collect data on the number of direct orders the institution has awarded since former finance minister Edward Scicluna was appointed governor in 2021.
Instead of providing the information requested of the public institution in line with transparency and good governance rules that Scicluna once espoused as an MEP, the bank imposed a €40 charge for the data.
The Shift has filed far more burdensome freedom of information requests in the past, and the collection of such data was not viewed as particularly onerous.
On the point of principle, this newsroom objected to the monetary imposition, arguing that the condition was not justified at law and constituted nothing more than yet another barricade against freedom of information.
Information and Data Protection Commissioner Ian Deguara looked into the matter and ordered the CBM to reduce the fee, in agreement with The Shift that it had not been justified.
While the Freedom of Information Act allows public authorities to impose a small charge against releasing certain information, any such charge must be justified and commensurate.
The central bank is the only public entity to levy such a charge as most normally supply the information requested without charge as part of their efforts to appear transparent.
In this case, however, the bank was seen to have created an unjustified charge, with the Deguara having found the fee requested to have been “excessive” and not compliant with the law.
The bank was ordered to reduce its processing fee to €20 and provide the information The Shift has requested without further delay.
Commissioner Deguara ruled: “Although the Commissioner recognises the fact that the law sets out clear parameters when public authorities are allowed to charge nominal fees to applicants when acceding to requests for access to information, he urges heads of public authorities to advocate better judgement in the circumstances and ensure that common sense prevails.”
Scicluna, 77, was kicked upstairs by Prime Minister Robert Abela to make way for his former chief of staff Clyde Caruana to be placed in charge of the public purse strings.
Scicluna’s cabinet exit was sweetened with a financial package of over €100,000 on top of his local ministerial pension and another from the European Parliament. He is also receiving an honorarium as a member as a Malta Financial Services Authority board member – an ex officio position.
U Scicluna ta’ 77 ghax ma jwarrabx u jgawdi t-tliet pensjonijiet li ghandu tal-Parlament Malti, tal-MEP u tas-sigurtà soċjali – jekk m’ghandux xi pensjoni ohra mill-Università! M’ghandhom xebgha qatt dar-rghiba, qishom mejtin bil-guh.
This guy is not President Matteralla.
Qatt ma ghandhom xebgha dejjem iridu iktar. Mela ma jafux li wara l mewt l emil u xi tkun ghamilt f hajtek tibqa tisema ghalih mhux il flus. Jafuh dan dal qabda ghorief li qed imexuna jew qed jaraw sal ponta ta mnehirhom. Il flus sbieh u importanti izda mhux kollox Bobby.