Former Labour parliamentary secretary Rosianne Cutajar has avoided an ethics investigation by Standards Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi into an undeclared consultancy with the Institute of Tourism Studies due to a lapse in the prescription period.
While the commissioner noted a “potential” issue over whether the consultancy was “genuine,” he concluded that the complaint could not be investigated as a legally-imposed one-year time limit had elapsed.
The complaint, raised in April by civil society group Repubblika, claimed Cutajar breached ethics when she did not declare income from the consultancy contract in a 2020 asset declaration for 2019 when she was an MP.
The consultancy contract was first revealed by The Shift in April, following leaks of chats between Cutajar and Yorgen Fenech, charged with involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The contract showed how Cutajar received a salary from ITS three months before telling Fenech she had decided to take on the consultancy.
The issue raised questions on whether the consultancy was genuine, fuelled by Cutajar’s message to Fenech, which said, “I don’t care anymore, I’m going to become Pierre’s [ITS CEO] consultant so I can get another salary.”
In his decision, Commissioner Azzopardi said, “Potentially, there could have been an issue over whether the contract was genuine or not, meaning whether Cutajar ever did any consultancy work justifying her employment with ITS.”
However, a prescription period of one year since the suspected breach of ethics occurred, imposed by the Standards in Public Life Act, has elapsed, precluding Azzopardi from investigating the matter further.
In his decision, Azzopardi noted recommendations made by the EU’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which called for an extension of the prescription period.
Azzopardi additionally stated how the OECD report stated, “the existing practice of parliamentary members holding a secondary job, especially when that job depends on or is a consultancy with government entities, is incompatible with their duties as MPs.”
“Case closed” – Rosianne Cutajar
Reacting to the standards commissioner’s decision, Cutajar claimed the case was now closed.
She said the complaint was “yet another attempt to distance me from my political and Labourite activism,” noting that she “always was and will be a Labourite.”
Following the chat leak, Cutajar was kicked out of the Labour Party’s parliamentary group.
In response to the commissioner’s lack of an investigation, Repubblika condemned Cutajar’s reaction to the decision, claiming it was misleading.
The civil society group concluded Cutajar “does not have a place in politics.”
No stranger to investigations
In 2021, following an investigation by former standards commissioner George Hyzler, Cutajar was investigated by the tax department on suspicions of evading taxes on income she made through work as a property broker for Fenech.
Last July, Cutajar said the secretive investigation had concluded and found no wrongdoing on her part.
Former ADPD Leader Carmel Cacopardo had also requested Cutajar’s ITS consultancy be investigated, this time by the auditor general.
The National Audit Office has yet to inform the public whether it is investigating the case, let alone publish any conclusions.